Tag Archives: moshman

Adolescent Psychological Development, Part IV: Advanced Psychological Development

In my prior responses to Moshman’s Adolescent Psychological Development (2005), I separated rationality from rational agency, pluralist rational constructivism from the pluralist constructivism of rational agents, and identity from personhood. As “rational moral identity” figures prominently in the fourth section of the book, entitled “Advanced Psychological Development,” it would be reasonable to expect that rational moral identity would itself be separated from something it is not. However, this cannot be done, as rational moral identity is not anything.

This is not to say that Moshman does not precisely describe the concept that is so named. He does so effectively. It involves rational agency, identity, and moral reasoning. Indeed, the “Moral Reasoning Identity of Rational Agents” would be a fair term for the concept. As this term would include only aspects that Moshman presents as preferable, I do not believe he would criticize this construction. Ultimately, “rational moral identity” is not a good term for the same way that “spherical light-source” is not a good term for the sun: it is too broad to be helpful in understanding it.

First, that “rational moral identity” is in fact a moral reasoning identity for rational agents is beyond doubt. Moshman describes moral rationality as “not just rational judgments about what actions are right or wrong but also meta-ethical cognition [emphasis his] concerning the basis for and justification of moral judgments” (116). Moshman’s emphasis on the cognitive as opposed to behavioral aspects of morality is not accidental as later in the same paragraph he explicitly describes himself as “[connecting] the moral domain to the domain of epistemology.” Later, the author writes that “to have a moral identity is to have an explicit theory of yourself as systematically acting on the basis of respect and/or concern for the rights and/or welfare of others” (122), which incorporates both identity and moral reasoning. The term “rational moral identity” would certainly cover all these aspects, but such a term would diminish the contrast between a morally reasoning identity for rational agents and rational moral personhood, a traditional concept of development with which Moshman’s ideas conflict.

Rational moral personhood contrasts with rational agency-moral reasoning-identity for the reasons previously described in these essays. Rationality contrasts with rational agency as it rests on metacognition as opposed to fully-self-justified beliefs. Morality contrasts with moral reasoning as its contrasts with behaviors as opposed to explicit cognitive reasoning. Personhood contrasts with identity in its embrace of what is universal among thinking humans as opposed to what is particular of those with the aptitude and inclination toward introspective explicit justification.

Moshman concludes his eleventh chapter by writing “the promotion of rationality should be the primary purpose of education” (134). Interpreting this use of “rationality” to mean mere metacognition is probably besides the point. The twelfth and final chapter of the book, “Rationality and Liberty in Secondary Education,” ponders mainly what a school system designed to promote rational agency-moral reasoning-identity would look like. If rational moral personhood is a different goal, how then might the educational infrastructure function?

In support of the rational agency / moral reasoning / identity trinity, Moshman writes that “We want [students], above all, to be conscious of themselves as thinking, willing, active beings, bearing responsibility for their choices, and able to explain those choices by reference to their own ideals and purposes” (138). A proponent of enculturating rational moral personhood in the young, on the otherhand, might write that we went students, above all, to think rightly, to will rightly, to be rightly, and to continue to makes right choices in the face of criticism.” The focus would then not be on academic freedom but on academic rightness.

This embrace of rightness, arete, as an educational goal (see also Pirsig, 1976) recalls virtue, a concept touched on in “Eudaimonist Conceptions of Morality as Virtue,” from pages 62 to 64. However, eudaimonism applies to neither of our conceptions. Moshman correctly criticizes the eudaimonist agenda as failing the need to “establish rationality” (64). Further, I add that the section address only eudaimonism is a framework for moral reasoning, that is cognition about morality. In contrast, rational moral personhood focus on moral behaviors, whether cognitive or physical.

Thus, a true contrast between rational agency/moral reasoning/identity and rational moral personhood has yet to be written.

It is a discussion for another time.

Adolescent Psychological Development, a tdaxp series
1. Cognitive Development
2. Moral Development
3. Identity Formation
4. Advanced Psychological Development
5. Bibliography

Adolescent Psychological Development, Part III: Identity Formation

Imagine an individual who has agency, that is this individual “engages in actions and thus has (or at least attempts to have) an impact in the world” (Moshman, 2005, 91). This individual shows “a sufficient degree of behavioral consistency across contexts” (92) such that one might say he possesses singularity. This individual believes he existed in the past, exists now, and that in all probability he will continue to exist in the future; this individual possess “continuity.” This individual is rational, possesses metacognition, and as such knows to not distract himself while working on some particular difficult task. Further, imagine this individual regularly engages in fantastically risky, pointless, or destructive behavior, and when questioned about it cannot form any semblance of a coherent motive.

In other words, imagine this individual is four.

Can we say only this individual is a person? Certainly only those who support abortion in the 19th trimester would say no. Can we say this individual is a rational agent? Only those of infinite patience and charity would say yes. Thus, I fervently agree with Moshman (2005, 93) that there are at least four aspects of personhood: “agency, rationality, singularity, and continuity.” And yet I fully disagree with him when, in the very next sentence, he writes “At the very least, persons are rational agents extending across time, acting in diverse contexts on the basis of their own reasons, and responsible for their actions [emphasis mine].”

In the same way I earlier cleaved rationality from rational agency, I now separate personhood from identity. I accept Moshman’s definition of identity as a “theory of oneself” … that is “coherent” or “organized to generate an integrated conception” and “explanatory” or “structured in such a way as to enhance self-understanding” and further is “explicit” and therefore “known to the individual” (90-91).

To have an identity in the manner that Moshman uses the term requires rational agency. Certainly there are other views on this (see Maalouf, 2001, for a particularly readable exposition), but it is a fair explanation that the requirements for identity outlined above more than fulfill the requirements for rational agency held previously. To steal Moshman’s style, I say at the very least, persons with identity are rational agents.

In an earlier essay, I left it open whether rationality agency was rational. However, if rational agency is viewed as merely a means of achieving identity, then perhaps a better question can be ask: is it rational to achieve an identity? Of course, it would be irrational to view identity as an end in itself. So what other ends does identity co-vary with? Does it bring about objective benefits or at least benefits that can be agreed upon, by the means symmetrical social interaction, as valuable?

Certainly there are intersubjective and circular benefits toward identity. For instance, ethnic identity leads to higher reported feelings towards one’s ethnic group (Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz., 1997), which is another way of saying that self-congratulatory explicit attitudes lead to self-congratulatory explicit attitudes. Note though that, at least among blacks, these benefits exist in the absence of cultural or material well-being (Taylor & Walsch, 1979) or even implicitly favorable views of their own ethnicity (Ashburn-Nardo, Knowles, & Monteith, 2003). Rather, what is needed is evidence extending the benefits of identity to something concrete: for instance, general intelligence, life-expectancy, wealth, income, (im)probability of dying a violent death, etc.

Further, even if these are shown, it must also be demonstrated that the “benefit” is caused by, and not a cause of, the identity. As late as 2005, for instance, Moshman could write that “no one believes that political or religious commitments are genetically determined” when it now it appears that just that is partially the case (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2005; Hatemi, et al., 2007). Identity can no more assumed to be (completely) environmentally determined than politics is.

It may well be wise to define personhood such that all members of the species homo sapiens qualify. Even a more restrictive definition surely include preschool tots. Identity though is more narrowly defined, and this narrow definition allows an open debate on whether fostering it is a worthwhile goal. At least for now, the jury is out.

Adolescent Psychological Development, a tdaxp series
1. Cognitive Development
2. Moral Development
3. Identity Formation
4. Advanced Psychological Development
5. Bibliography

Adolescent Psychological Development, Part II: Moral Development

Near the end of the second section of Adolescent Psychological Development, entitled “Moral Development,” Moshman lays out the metatheory (essentially a paradigm or research program) of “pluralist rational constructivism” as a way of understanding moral development. It is hard to argue with this However, the metatheory as laid out is different than the metatheory as analyzed. While later in this essay I will defend the concept of “pluralist rational constructivism,” as Moshman uses the term he means “pluralistic contructvism by rational agents.”

Starting on page 71 and continuing for two pages, Moshman gives five “metatheoretical assumptions” for pluralist rational cosntructivism. They are that “rationality is fundamentally a matter of metacognition rather than a matter of logic,” that the existence “moral universals” is independent of the truth of the metatheory, that “research on moral development should seek evidence for both diversity and universality,” that a distinction of “symmetric from asymmetric social interactions” is useful for distinguishing “between the properties inherent to social interchange and those specific to a particular culture,” and lastly that “reflection on rules generates principles that explain and justify those rules and that may lead to the reconstruction of such rules.” The first two of these are easy to agree with: that rationality is essentially metacognition was acknowledged in my previous paper, and that empirical truths do not rely on normative truths is a truism in science. The third assumption, likewise, is acceptable. While social science is often view as the explanation of variance by means of correlation and regression, the study of human universals is also permitted when humanity itself is viewed as part of a larger population of primates, mammals, animals, or even objects. The last two assumptions, the symmetric-asymmetric distinction and the reconstruction of rules from introspection, and more problematic. Each are discussed below.

As the term is used by Moshman, pluralist rational constructivism relies on symmetric social interaction. Summarizing Habermas (1990), the author views asymmetric social interaction as “privileging the moral perspectives of some individuals over others” (70) and later suggests that it is these non-symmetric interactions that “may be a source of moral diversity” (72). Moshman certainly has intellectual support for his claims, as other researchers (Schwartz, 1995; von Glaserfield, 1995) hold much the same. Clearly, power differentials in bargaining games (of which social interaction is a sort) matter, and the greater the power differential the more it may be expected to matter, so that the outcome will depend more on social context and less on critical belief formation. Note what is happening here, however: the importance of peer interaction is supported in the context of rational agency, but not in the context of rationality (metacognition). Indeed, some of the greatest thinking on metacognition (Coram, 2004) and best applications of it (Fadok, Boyd, & Warden, 1995) occur in the lethally asymmetric environment of war. Considering how asymmetric environments tend to be crises where metacognition is most useful, it is even arguable that rationality is best developed in asymmetric relationships. The broad conclusion is clear: symmetric social interactions may be necessary for the development of rational agency, but they are not needed in the context of rationality.

The last assumption is problematic as well. Introspection is simply an activity that people are not good at (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000; Wolford, Miller, & Gazzaniga, 2000). The finding of Camerer, Loewenstein, & Prelec (2005, 37) that the “fact that people lack introspective access to the sources of their own judgments and behavior, and tend to overattribute both to controlled processes has many important implications for economics” should be extended to moral development, as well. If “game-theoretic equilibrium resulted from learning, imitation, or evolution, rather than simple introspection” (50), then why cannot the same be said of morally rational equilibrium as well? If introspection is so weak, then why is relying on it rational?

I propose an alternative formulation of pluralist rational constructivism, one that abandons the uncertain ground of rationality agency for the solid land of rationaltiy. This formulation has three metatheoretical assumptions: pluralism, rationality, and constructivism. Pluralism is the idea that no universal moral development should be expected, because of variation within and between human groups. Rationality, the focus on metacognition, holds that morality is not just a blind execution of affects but requires mental control. Constructivism is the belief that “people play an active role in their own development” (Moshman, xix) and amounts to saying that, at the present time, it is useful to use the self as an independent variable.

Support pluralist rational constructivism. Support pluralism. Support rationality. Support constructivism. Oppose the chimera of rational agency.

Adolescent Psychological Development, a tdaxp series
1. Cognitive Development
2. Moral Development
3. Identity Formation
4. Advanced Psychological Development
5. Bibliography

Adolescent Psychological Development, Part V: Bibliography

The works cited in the four reaction papers to Moshman’s Adolescent Psychological Development appear below. While the bibliography to my previous series, Cognitive Development, ran five single-spaced pages in my word processor, this document only takes up one. The A’s appear above the fold. The rest appear below.

Alford, J., Funk, C., & Hibbing, J. (2005) Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 154-168.
Ashburn-Nardo, L., Knowles, M.L., & Monteith, M.J. (2003). Black Americans’ implicit racial associations and their implications for intergroup judgement. Social Cognition, 21(1), 61-87.

Camerer, C., Loewenstein, G., & Prelec, D. (2005). Neuroeconomics: How neuroscience can inform economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 43(1), 9-64.
Corman, R. (2004). Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war. New York: Back Bay Books.
Craemer, T. (2006). Evolutionary model of racial attitude formation: Socially shared and idiosyncratic racial attitudes. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.

Fadok, D.S., Boyd, J., & Warden, J. (1995). Air power’s quest for strategic paralysis. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press

Habermas, J. (1990). Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge, MA: HIT Press.
Hatemi, P.K., Medland, S.E., Morley, K.I., Heath, A.C., & Martin, N.G. (2007). The genetics of voting: An Australian twin study. Behavioral Genetics, 37(3), 435-448.
Maalouf, A. (2001). In the name of identity: Violence and the need to belong. New York: Arcade.

Morris, J.P., Squires, N.K., Taber, C.S., & Lodge, M. (2003). Activation of political attitudes: A psychophysiological examination of the hot cognition process. Political Psychology, 24(4), 727-745.
Moshman, David. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Phinney, J.S., Cantu, C.L., & Kurtz, D.A. (1997). Ethnic and American identity as predictors of self-esteem among African American, Latino, and White adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 26, 165-185.
Pirsig, R.M. (1975). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. New York: Bantam Books.

Schwartz, D.L. (1995). The Emergence of Abstract Representations in Dyad Problem Solving. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 4, 321-354.

Taylor, M.C. & Walsh, E.J. (1979). Explanations of black self-esteem. Some empirical tests. Social Psychology Quarterly, 42(3), 242-253.

von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). A Constructivist Approach to Teaching. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wildon, T.D., Lisle, D.J., Schooler, J.W., Hodges, S.D., Klaaren, K.J., LaFleur, S.J. (1993). Introspecting about reasons can reduce post-choice satisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19(3), 331-339.
Wilson, T., Lindsey, S., & Schooler, T. (2000). A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review, 107(1), 101-126.
Wilson, T.D. & Schooler, J.W. (1991). Thinking too much: introspection can reduce the quality of preferences and decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(2): 181–192.
Wolford, G., Miller, M.B., & Gazzaniga, M. (2000). The left hemisphere’s role in hypothesis formation. Journal of Neuroscience, 20(6), 1-4.

Adolescent Psychological Development, a tdaxp series
1. Cognitive Development
2. Moral Development
3. Identity Formation
4. Advanced Psychological Development
5. Bibliography

Adolescent Psychological Development, Inroduction: Rationality, Morality, and Identitty

I’ve fully read David Moshman’s Adolescent Psychological Development: Rationality, Morality, and Identity twice and went over it a third time. The first was as a required text in Adolescent Psychology, the second was to study for comps, and a third was for writing this series of reactions.

The Second Edition (2005)

Moshman’s book doubles both as a text on adolescent development and a philosophical exposition on “rational moral identity,” the fostering of which the author identifies as the primary purpose of education. Moshman uses the first three sections to define each of these concepts independently, and ties with together with a feeling of inevitable logic.

I disagree with the author’s purpose, and in several places try deconstruct some terms that he uses as near-synonyms (for example, rationality and rational agency) in order to throw doubt on “rational moral identity” and hold up an alternative. I have the pleasure of studying under this intellectual, and the free debate he encourages are a testament to himself, the department, and the university.

Adolescent Psychological Development, a tdaxp series
1. Cognitive Development
2. Moral Development
3. Identity Formation
4. Advanced Psychological Development
5. Bibliography

Final Reaction on David Moshman’s Advanced Psychological Development

This reaction paper, nowhere near as good as my summary of interpretivism for scopes & methods, is a required reaction paper for David Moshman’s Adolescent Psychological Development: Rationality, Morality, and Identity (2nd Edition). It was one of the three books I read for Adolescent Psychology, along with David Elkind’s All Grown Up And No Place To Go and Amin Maalouf’s In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

I’ve previously turned in and posted quest sets of Moshman before, on cognitive development, identity development, and the purpose of education. The paper below focuses mostly on moral and advanced psychological development. For a taste of my take on Moshmanite reasoning, see my comment’s to Mark’s post The Epistemological Battlespace.

As a political science instructor, I commonly see students grapple with moral (what we call “normative”) issues while analyzing situations. From collateral damage to unaverted genocides, and everything in between, the rules of statecraft Therefore Moshman’s section on advanced psychology development, especially rationality and morality, intrigued me. In this reaction paper I will sail closely to the order the book presents issues, but interpret each in light of my experience.

First, Moshman cites Ketternauer’s moral espitemologies (116). These are intuitionist, subjectivist, and transubjectivist. In my experience the vast majority of freshmen at UNL appear to be transsubjectivists. Two weeks ago my recitations help mock trials of Slobodan Milosevic, after learning about the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. In every section, the arbitrarily named defense team put up a well-thought-out and well-reasoned defense. In one, the defense even earned an acquittal from a judge who had previously been selected by the students. Milosevic’s actions were defined as necessary in the context he was operating under, and superior to other options he had. This is the essence of transubjectivism. As my classes are composed of freshmen interested in politics, as opposed to “graduate students with background in moral philosophy” (117), either UNL’s student body is significantly above-par or Krettenauer’s findings need to be rethought.

Second, Moshman’s discussion of moral identity is helpful, because it can help in explaining “idealism” — one of the main perspectives in international relations. An idealist believes that people are motivated by thoughts that drive their action, even if that action is not self-beneificial. Moshman’s definition of a moral agent — “one who acts on teh basis of respect and/or concern for the rights and/or welfare of others” (121) is essentially the definition of an idealist. Using this definition, George Bush, Osama bin Laden, Chang Kai-Shek, and Hitler can all be explained in idealst/moral agents ways. Going back to the previous example with Slobodan Milosevic, one of the defense arguments used was “He had to protect his people.” That is a clear example of reasoning based on moral agency.

Third, Moshman’s constructivism section is useful because the same theory, under the same name, exists in international relations, as well under the term “interpretivism” in political science generally. It can be helpful to explain to students that their reality, and their nation’s reality, both are formed because “individuals play an active role in constructing their own knowledge and reasoning and in generating their own behavior.” (126). With the end of the Cold War and the rise of terrorism, where the fate of nations now hang more on individuals with boxcutters than bureaucracies with bombs, constructivism enables students to apply their own metacognition to the field they study.

Fourth, and here is a failing of Moshman’s, I could use discussion that “we should consider the relationship of differences across individuals to differences within individuals” (132) as an example of fallacious reasoning. Intergroup contests come up constantly in political science, and Moshman’s example of how even an educated author can be misled by statistics will be insightful. For instance, imagine that there are two groups A and B, each of whom as a standard variation (sigma) of 3, and in each of whom the variation with individuals is 6, and that the difference in means (mu) between them across whatever domains is only .1. Moshman would say here the intergroup variation is meaningless, because variance within groups is larger than between groups, and variance within individuals is greater than within a group. Yet this analysis would be deeply misleading, because in any highly-intense competition that strongly selects for some characteristic (say, Senate races), we could except all winners to be from the favored group (because we would be chopping off the normal curve at the very upper tail) even with this comparatively minor intergroup variation.

Fifth, while I disagree with Moshman’s belief that education’s “core purpose should be the promotion of rationality” (it should instead be preparing students for personal happiness and national success, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution), I enjoyed the important features of discussion he mentions (138): “each students has multiple opportunities to present and defend his or her views,” “each student was exposed to a variety of alternative views and justifications,” “students were encouraged to reach agreement on a conclusion they all deemed most justifiable,” and “students were not required to change their views if they remain unconvinced by the critiques and alternatives.” I run all ofy recitations as a democracy with a three stage process: students elect representatives to a Class Assembly through proportional representation, the Class Assembly selects a President through a 2/3ds Majority, and the President names a Prime Minister who has to be approved by more than half of the Class Assembly (actually, because I allow the Class Assembly to change the Constitution with a 2/3rds vote, two of the recitations have altered the process — in my original formulation the Prime Minister has a judicial role, but now one recitation has named a standing Supreme Court, and the other created multiple classes of suffrage as well as an elected, judicial Speaker of the Assembly). Every class begins with this entire process (with the exception of the one with a Supreme Court, whose appointments are for life). Among the many benefits of this approach are that they force students to go through Moshman’s four stages first thing. The election generally takes only five minutes, but even contested elections are valuable, because they force students to practically confront politics in the context of increased rationality.

In conclusion, the Moshman book was valuable. Indeed, I found it to be the best thing in the course. His words on moral epistemologices, moral identity, and constructivism are clearly useful and relevent to me. Even when he falls down, such as in statistical analysis or the purpose of schooling, his book is still valuable. I enjoyed it.

Questioning Moshman and van Glasersfeld on Education, Liberty, and Constructivism

Besides finishing up my four-part questioning tour of Moshman (previous posts: I, I, and I), this week’s reading also looks at A Constructivist Approach to Teaching by Ernst von Glasersfeld. It is the first chapter of Constructivism in Education, edited by Leslie Steffe and Jerry Gale of The University of Georgia.


The von Glasersfeld article has a boat load of citations on Google Scholar, and was quite enjoyable. Besides being constructivist like blog-friend Dan Nexon, and hinting at times at ideological evolution, Dr. Ernst von Glasersfeld has looked at a particularly fun topic: poetry.

Unrelatedly, last night baked cherry bars. Delicious, and completely devoured by fellow residents far too fast.


On page 137, Moshman quotes Israel Scheffler, who in 1997 wrote “The funciton of education in a democracy is rather to liberate the mind…” Aren’t Moshman and Scheffler conflating John Stuart Mill-style “liberalism” (which is a method of thinking) with democracy (a method of selecting laws)?

On 137-138, Moshman writes that we do not want to have our educational systems producing “slaves, incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and politics of their own and realizing them.” Besides being an offensive slight of those held in slavery, does Moshman’s formulation not denigrate the “meek”? Is this hypocritical, in the context of a book on morality?

On page 143, Moshman reiterates “rational constructivism suggests that education should be aimed at the promotion of rationality, and that rationality is promoted by intellectual freedom.” Wouldn’t the view that “education should be aimed at the well-being of the student, the community, and the nation” be more responsible?

von Glasersfeld

On page 3, von Glasersfeld complains that contemporary students are “unable to read or write, unable to operate with numbers sufficiently well for their jobs,” and so on. If this is true, would we not see unemployment trending higher, not lower, in recent years and decades?

On page 7, von Glasersfled writes “From the constructivist perspective, as Piaget stressed, knowing is an adaptive activity… This notion is analogous to the notion of adaption in evolutionary biology, expanded in include, beyond the goal of survival, the goal of a coherent conceptual organization of the world as we experience it.” Can this be easily expanded to accommodate Dawkins’ “memes” – is it not the evolutionary perspective, but from the perspective of ideas to whom coherency is an approximation of fitness?

On page 10, von Glasersfeld discusses Plato’s idea of “perfect forms” that are “embedded.” However, he concludes “from our point of view, to assume that something is God given or innate should be the last resort — to be accepted only when all attempts at analysis have broken down.” Why? There is considerable research on genetic factors in belief, so why should one line of scientific inquiry be so deprecated?

On page 12, von Glaserfled says Kant writes “that we can only conceive of another subject by imputing our own subjectness to another entity.” Does this imply that all “conceptual” thinking is analogical?

On page 13, von Glaserfeld asks “How does it come about that normal children, sometimes between the ages of 12 and 24 months, learn to use plural words of their language?” If this is true, this is fascinating.

Questioning Moshman on Moral and Advanced Psychological Development

After (school-required) posts on Dr. David Moshman’s perspective on cognitive development and identity development, below the fold you’ll find my question set for moral and rational moral development.

Want something more interesting? American Future and Catholicgauze have been particularly good, along with the always-golden Coming Anarchy and ZenPundit.

Moral Development

On page 52, Moshman writes that Piaget “argued that genuine morality comes not from parents or other agents of culture but rather is constructed in the context of peer interaction.” Does this mean that peers are not agents of culture and that morality cannot be mentored?

On page 53, Moshman reports Piaget criticizing “an adult simply [telling] the children [how] to divide the candy equal.” How does not address the mentoring issue, is it not a straw-man response?

Also on page 53, “morality, then is not a matter of culturally specific rules learned from parents or other agents of society… [but rather] has a rational basis, and develops through an internally directed process of constructing increasingly sophisticated understandings about the inherent logic of social relationships.” So therefore fundamentalists are amoral or immoral, if their justification is Holy Scripture itself?

On 61, Moshman writes, “The most controversial feature of Gilligan’s (1982) theory is her claim that an orientation toward justice is male whereas care represents the female voice.” Considering different learning styles, does this imply that justice is a more viable concept in low-density networks while care is more viable in high-density nets?

On page 63, Moshman quotes Campbell and Christopher describing eudaimonism as “… pursuit of one’s specific excellence.” Does this mean that positive psychology is eudaimonic?

On page 64, Moshman summarizes the views of morality by presenting them as justice, care, or virute oriented. What about Beauty? Or Truth? Or even Victory?

On page 71, Moshman writes:

“A theory of moral development would provide a specific account of how morality develops and could be tested against data concerning the development of morality. A metatheory, in contrast is a proposal about the basic assumptions that would undergird a plausible theory.”

By “metatheory,” then, Moshman appears to mean paradigm or perspective. Does he? If so, shouldn’t he make more explicit the extra-scientific, philosophical nature of this discussion?

On page 73, Moshman writes “to the extend that moral reflection takes place in the context of peer interaction, however, it may yield constructed moral principles that are not only rationally justifiable but, in some cases, universal across cultures.” So Moshman is equating the equilibrium of a bargaining game with morality?

Advanced Psychological Development

On page 117, Moshman writes “Identity formation, correspondingly, involves consideration of multiple potential solves and the consequences of commitment to a particular conception of oneself. It does seem plausible, then, that formal operations would be a prerequisite for identity formation.” So “trade,” or practiced creation of a work product, would produce no identity whatsoever in concrete-thinking individuals? Ditto family and culture?

On page 120, Moshman writes “Identity commitments may thus undermine rationality, and the strongest identities may pose the most serious problem.” First, does this imply that organizations that have strong identities (such as “diverse,” “tolerant,” “universities,” etc) would be the most irrational? Second, does this passage imply the existence of “mitochondrial” identities that subvert thinking while giving the individual so much strength that a reversion is unthinkable?

On page 123, Moshman writes “From the broader perspective of advanced psychological development, however, it is clear that the construction of identity may undermine rationality and/or morality, and thus does not always constitute progress. Identities can motivate oppression and violence, for example, up to and including genocide (Maalouf, 2001; Moshman, 2004a, 2004b).” While the inclusion of “progress” into development seems to be definitional, how is the second sentence quoted not a normative criticism (and thus unscientific)?

On page 127, Moshman says “moral change is thus constrained by rational considerations that render change developmental in nature.” But considering the powerful draw of irrational beliefs for symbolic thinkers (see 120), might rationality merely be a stage of an objectively measurable progress?

On page 133, Moshman imagines a study that shows “statistically significant gender differences” in terms of moral reasoning, but dismisses such a potential finding, writing “we would need to consider the magnitude of the gender difference relative to the extent of variability among and within individuals.” Why? If the differences are enough to produce significantly different outcomes (by compounding, networking, etc), such a “consideration” would seem to do little good.

Questioning Moshman on Cognitive Development

Now that UNL’s Adolescent Psychology class is finished with David Elkind’s All Grown Up and No Place To Go (which was questioned twice here: I, II), our next book is Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd Edition. The book is written by UNL’s own David Moshman.


Our professor has done a good job going over Moshman’s concepts, so there’s only four questions for this week’s reading. Some information from this section will go into a short reaction paper based on my four-part series, Liberal Education (I, II, III, IV).

On page 7, Moshman writes that “cognitive changes, rather than being arbitrary and idiosyncratic, show a natural tendency to move in the direction of greater rationality.” How does Moshman square this with studies that shows greater genetic influence of beliefs after the age of 20?

On page 15, Moshman writes that “Cognitive development, according to Piaget, is the construction of increasingly sophisticated forms of logic, culminating in the formal operational logic of the adolescent.” On what grounds does Piaget beleive that formal logic is the culmination of cognitive development? Specifically, does he deny the existence of a third-order logic of humans?

On page 16, Mosham says that “Rationality, in its oldest, broadest, and deepest sense, is a matter of having good reasons for one’s beliefs and actions.” If “good” is defined as good for one’s mental or physical health, this impleis that beliefs which are logically sound but detrimental are not good. Doesn’t this imply the existence of a third-order logic which better approximates “rationality”?

From pages 17 to 23, Mosham describes both the dialectic and scientific reasoning as possible stages beyond second-order reasoning. But in both cases, all that is done is the introduction of postulates. This is hardly qualitatively different thinking of the sort that allows one to jump from concrete to logical thinking. Does this add anything new, or merely subtract from formal operations by introducing the constraining postulates?

Update: Questions for the next reading section, also on cognitive development:

On page 28, Moshman describes an experiment where children, adolescents, and young adults were given logical problems based on promises that the audience would view as true, neutral, or false. However, all of these ages are very much under the guidance of learned beliefs. How would the tests have turned out if the subjects were older, and the information went against genetic predispositions?

On pages 28-29, Moshman argues that all children naturally develop a constructivist theory of mind. If this is the true, then why was constructivism not the first psychological theory to be widely accepted?

On 31, Moshman says traditional research on epistemic cognition involved interviews based on justification for beliefs. Isn’t this just measuring linguistic and interpersonal intelligence — and not intrapersonal intelligence at all? That is, “high performing” subjects know what they “should” say and they know how to say it. Isn’t this quite different from metacognition?

On 33, Moshman writers “research does not support a categorical distinction between cultural groups in reasoning. Neither East Asians, Westerners, nor any other culturla groups has been shown to rely on a paritcular kind of reasoning to the exclusion of the other.” This seems to be a straw-man argument. The party of the brain that comprehend western characters and chinese characters are different, for instance, and this is shown by stroke survivors who lose the ability to use one but not the other. Wouldn’t the cululative effect of this mental exercises naturally produce different thinking patterns?

On page 37, Moshman notes that while individual scores for the card turning experiment are terrible, collective scores are quite high. What is the broader relation of Moshman’s to the work of Surowiecki (author of The Wisdom of Crowds)?

On page 44, Moshman lists rationality has constructed by the processes of reflection, coordination, and peer interaction. Yet is reflection really necessary? If instead of a cooperative exercise, Nora North and Simon South were playing some high-tempo game, which gave them coordination of experiences and peer interaction, wouldn’t they have rationally realized the “true” location of objections without reflection? Or is reflection defined so broadly that even reflection that occurs subconsciously count? If so, is this a useful definition?

On pages 45 and 46, Moshman says that asymmetric power relationships are more educative than symmetric power relationships. If this is true, wouldn’t schools do well be to structured around free-play and free-gossip, and keeping classroom time to a minimum?

Questioning Moshman on Identity Development

It’s the busy season for adolescent psychology posts here at tdaxp. Elkind and Price were finished out, Moshman started (in a post since updated with even more!), and even a reaction paper was posted. Now a question set over David Moshman’s views on identity development.

On 81, Moshman writes that “Erikson noted the important correspondences of the adult stages to teh child stages with respect to relationships across the generations.” With the importance of family throughout Erikson’s stages of personality development, might “family” be considered a “base identity”? What other base identities are there? Culture? Work?

On 82, Moshman says “more briefly, Erikson’s view was that adolescent exploration of alternatives ideally results in… a commitment to ideals.” Isn’t this a normative judgment? Why not a commitment to individuals?

On 83, Moshman defines Marcia’s term “foreclosed individual” as someone with “clear commitments” that have been “internalized.” Is this a natural state of someone in a highly-connected world, who will be in contact with a large number of very fit memes?

On 84, Moshman introduces “identity achieved” as an introduction to “foreclosed individual,” because an achieved individual supposedly chose their identity while a foreclosed one did not. But constructivism teaches that the individual is an active participants in decision making. Likewise, early adolescents is surely an identity crisis for all. How then can the difference between achieved and foreclosed be meaningfully sustained, other than in a historical sense?

On page 90, Moshman lists the first stage of identity development as “establishing concrete self-other distinctions.” Yet Ortega y Gasset said “I am myself and my surroundings,” and the philosophical basis of that theory of identity goes back much farther (“no man is an island,” &c). How does Moshman harmonize his theory with this history of thought?

On 90 and 91, Moshman describes identity as “a theory of oneself,” and gives two aspects of theories: coherency and explanativeness. Yet he ignores predictiveness, which seems central to identity.

On page 97, Moshman lists the standard James Marcia domains of identity formation as career, sexuality, religion, and political identity. Why not family, especially given the importance of family seen on page 81?

On page 99, Moshman reviews the four identity statuses (achieved, moratorium, diffused, and foreclosed from page 85). What is the relation between an identity status to a Boydian “orientation state” or “stance”?

On page 100, Moshman quotes “dogmatic self-theorists” as one who strives “to defend against potential threats to their self-constructions. Individuals who utilize this protectionist approach to self-theorizing have been found to endorse authoritarian views, to possess rigid self-construct systems, and to be closed to novel information relevant to hard core values and beliefs.” Does this imply that those who use power-centric techniques to prevent annoying information are dogmatic self-theorists. For instance, is it likely that speech codes which prevent the flying of confederate flags in dormitories (as discussed in class) were devised by dogmatic self-theorists?

On page 105, Moshman quotes Pinney as saying “Growing up in a society where the mainstream culture may differ significantly in values and beliefs from their own culture of origin, [minority] youth face the task of achieving a satisfactory and satisfying integration of ethnic identity into a self-identity.” Is this an argument for increased integration (and thus deprecation) of ethnic identity? If differing cultures of origin deny members of smaller societies the ability to “start at the same place” as majorities, then wouldn’t the best solution be to melt those small cultures into one greater culture?