Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Belief and Moral Judgment: Considering Implications of a Religious Paradox in Neo-Kohlbergian Moral Reasoning

Kirk G. Mensch
February 2009

A debate continues regarding the reasons a paradox seems to exist when measuring the moral judgment of conservative religious populations using the Defining Issues Test (DIT and DIT2; Bebeau & Thoma, 2003), an instrument generally considered valid and reliable for measuring moral judgment ability according to the neo-Kohlbergian theoretical construct (Rest, 1975, 1979). Research has indicated that populations with a conservative religious ideology tend to score lower on the DIT than do other populations. Yet, the reasons for this phenomenon and implications regarding the validity of the DIT and the more general neo-Kohlbergian moral domain and development construct remain mired in conjecture. This study investigates findings from several studies of conservative religious populations and compares the results of an exploratory study conducted at a conservative Baptist college in the Midwest in order to better understand the paradox that seems to exist. Philosophical assumptions are then balanced to better appreciate the possibility of a synthesis between what might otherwise seem to be opposing moral perspectives.