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The Study of Moral and Cognitive Development
Anne Rivera, Yahoo! Contributor Network
The theories of cognitive and moral development have given us a much better understanding of how
human beings behave in society. Moreover, it provides individuals a deeper insight into the changes
of conscious thought processes and moral reasoning during the lifespan development. It is truly
necessary to study this particular topic in human behavior because learners can get a grasp of the
cognitive structure that ties in the relationship of biological factors and the surrounding
The study of cognitive and moral development has been accredited to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget
who possessed an interest in the progress of human knowledge. Cognitive development is not innate,
but individuals should take an active role in acquiring the knowledge they need to adapt to the
environment. Piaget viewed environment and social factors as essential roles in cognitive structures
and information-processing models. He pointed out that individuals acquire knowledge as they learn
and develop in their surrounding environment. In a specific instance, students accumulate
intelligence or trade skills to adapt and survive in the real world. They need intelligence to attain the
logic and mental activity to effectively interact with others and the environment.
Additionally, biological factors such as heredity play a crucial role because not everything is learned.
There are certain things that are innate such, to some extent, the measure of intelligence and
appearance. Some people are inclined to act in a certain way due to genes, as opposed to their
external influences. Individuals accede to their ancestors' physical structures. In turn, these
structures influence the nature and degree of a person's intellectual performance.
Piaget brings up important and thought-provoking points in his writing and studies on cognitive
development. He used his analysis to help him theorized how children learn and grown, mentally
and physically, through their exploration of the world around them. In addition to his study of
cognitive development, he examines the moral development of human beings.
Individuals eventually learn how to conform to their social and cultural customs and rules relating to
human behavior. Cognitive awareness is essential to the development of morality. In a specific real
world situation, children learn not to do certain things after they realize it hurts them. Children are
egoistic individuals because they only care about themselves, yet they become aware of their
surroundings, the meanings, and reasons of why the world functions in a particular matter. They
learn through interactions with their peers and adults. American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg
also studied this topic, extending Piaget's belief and hypothesis. He believed that it was a much
longer process, that in order for development to be truly success, one must build upon previous
learning. His work has been widely used in the real world today such as in social work practice. His
theories try to indicate that imposing certain rules and regulations on children can result in obedient
behavior from them because they wish to avoid punishment or conflict. For example, children like
rewards and presents so they act in a well-mannered behavior, one that pleases the authority figure.
They also conform to regulations to avert arguments from others, mainly their peers.
Extending Kohlberg's moral development theory was, a woman who held a strong feminist view,
Carol Gilligan, who pointed out the gender differences during the process. She thought, "women
develop a moral orientation that is grounded in relationships and responsibilities rather than in the
more male concern for rules and abstract principles." Her thoughts are reasonable. If one compares
the two genders, they can conclude that women tend to be more rational while men are more illogical
when it comes to thoughts and choices. The women realize their role in society and their act of
responsibility not only themselves but also to others. Also from the influence of other factors such as
the environment, they succumb to their roles. People can to view the different paths both genders go
through. Thus, they come to develop their morality and place in the world.
Religion was a factor used to study the cognitive and moral development of human beings. James W.
Fowler went on to study faith development and its affect in people. Faith aids individuals in
understanding themselves and the world they live in. Faith is used to explain what logic fails to do or
is incapable of doing; it fills in the voids and gaps of life. It helps humans comprehend society when
things such as science cannot do. Faith establishes motivation and compassion because if people
operated solely on logic then life would be lifeless and predictable. Therefore, faith is essential when
studying cognitive development.