Eisenberg- Essay (Moral Development)

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Eisenberg’s model of pro-social reasoning is made up of five levels. First is the Hedonistic level, this stems from an egocentric point of view where reasoning is based on own interest; the idea of maximising pleasure and minimising pain. This is preceded by the needs-orientated level; here reasoning is based on recognition of another’s needs without sympathy or reference to moral values. Next is the approval-orientated level where reasoning is based on what is expected or what is praiseworthy by others. Level 4- empathic/self-reflective, is described as basing your reasoning on sympathy and role-taking. Finally is the strongly internalised level where reasoning is based on clear values, dignity and rights, this is an idealistic level based on an ethical principle.

Unlike Kohlberg’s theory which is sequential and irreversible, Eisenberg’s model is fluid and flexible, accounting for an individual’s inconsistency in their moral development. For example, individuals often regress back to the hedonistic level in their adolescent years, often illustrating egocentric tendencies.

Eisenberg used a dilemma technique similar to that used by Kohlberg, the difference being that rather than studying responses to dilemmas about wrongdoing, she looked at how participants reasoned in circumstances where there was the option to do good. This technique was utilised in the Birthday Party Dilemma, results showed that preschool and nursery-age children tended to score lower, giving self-orientated or hedonistic answers in which they put their own interests and pleasure before the needs of others, for example they would say that it is more important to get to the party on time for the treats. Older children on the other hand scored more highly giving empathic answers in which they placed more importance on the feelings of others (altruism). From these results it can therefore be concluded that pro social reasoning changes with


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