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Dev Psychol. 1998 May;34(3):403-19.

Naturalistic conceptions of moral maturity.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.


By examining naturalistic conceptions of moral maturity, this project sought a more comprehensive understanding of moral excellence than is evident in dominant theories of moral development. Studies 1 and 2 involved different samples of 120 adults (17-25, 35-55, and 65+ years). Study 3 involved a sample of 180 undergraduates. In Study 1, a free-listing procedure was used to generate the attributes of a highly moral person as well as those for two related person-concepts. In Study 2, a rating procedure for these attributes was used to generate a prototype of the moral person-concept. In Study 3, a similarity-sorting task was used to uncover people's implicit typology of moral maturity. The findings indicate that naturalistic notions of moral excellence not only contain themes of principled reasoning but also reference aspects of moral character and virtue that enlarge our understanding of the psychological functioning of the mature moral agent.

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