Eisenberg's Levels of Pro-Social Reasoning

HideShow resource information

Pro-Social Reasoning

A pro-social action is one that is intended to aid or help a person. As a child ages, they become more aware of others needs (they are less egocentric).

Eisenberg created dilemmas that did not make reference to laws or rules or punishments, they pitted own desires against acting in a pro-social way.

1980s, Eisenberg carried out research on children using the hypothetical dilemmas where the child had to choose between helping someone at a personal cost and self-interest.

1 of 4

Eisenberg (1996)

She reviewed nearly 20 years of research. She found that children would rarely help someone to avoid punishment or becuase they were obeying authority (this is different to Kohlberg's stages where children act morality according to rewards/punishments until the third stage).

Eckensberger (1999), positive emotions (including empathy) are seen as important in any explanation of moral development. This is a further shift away from Kohlberg.

Eisenberg's Dilemma (1982)

'One day, a girl named Mary was on her way to a friend's birthday party. On her way she saw a girl who had fallen over and hurt her leg. She asked Mary to go home and get her parents so they could take her to the doctors. If Mary was to go and get the girl's parents, she would miss the party.' What should Mary do, and why?

2 of 4

Evaluating Eisenberg's Pro-Social Reasoning

She showed that children's reasoning is more advanced that Kohlberg suggested and that it occurs over 6 levels. But Kohlberg's theory has historical bias, morals in the 1960s were different to morals in the 1980s.

Empathetic reasoning is shown, this attempts to bring together cognitive, behavioural and attitude componants of morality.

In Eisenberg's model, only older children can use the higher levels, but they do not need to use the highest level of reasoning they are capable of using (a child who is capable of all 6 levels can use any level).

Eisenberg's model gives equal value to justice-oriented and caring-orientated moral reasoning.

3 of 4

Eisenberg's Levels

  • Level 1, Hedonistic reasoning (Up tp 7)
    • Pursuing own pleasure
    • Concerned with the consequenses to oneself, eg. personal benefit, expectation of reciprocation and if they like/dislike the other person
  • Level 2, Needs-orientated reasoning (7-11)
    • Concerned with the needs of others and wants to help
    • Concerns for needs is taken even if there is a conflict with their own needs
  • Level 3, Stereotyped and/or Approval-orientated reasoning (11-14)
    • Behaving as they think society will want them to behave
    • Involves stereotypes or good/bad people/behaviour and the desire for approval
  • Level 4, Empathetic reasoning (12+)
    • Considers others' persepctives and how their actions will make them feel
    • User can show role-taking, empathy and recognition of others' humanness.
  • Level 5, Partly internalised principles (12+)
    • Justification for actions come from internal views, but they aren't clearly thought out
  • Level 6, Strongly internalised principles (12+) (This form of reasoning is rare)
    • Justification comes from strongly internalised beliefs, such as equality or the improving of society. 
    • Emotional aspects are self-respect and living up to your own values.
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Cognition and Development resources »