Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


This research investigated relationships between moral reasoning, personality variables, and moral behavior. Three hypotheses about these relationships were proposed. The first was that moral reasoning is positively related to moral behavior; the second was that certain personality variables are positively related to moral behavior. The third and major hypothesis was that a combination of moral reasoning and personality variables is the better predictor of moral behavior than either moral reasoning or personality variable separately. This research was an extension of a previous study by Krebs and Rosenwald (1977). The method involved administering a measure of moral reasoning and a measure of personality to 74 subjects from undergraduate psychology courses. The measure of moral reasoning was the short form Rest’s (1974) Defining Issues Test: the personality measure was the California Personality Inventory. These two tests were administered to a subject in the context of single group session. During a session the experimenter told the subjects that he would have to cut the session short because of room scheduling problems, and that he would have to give them a third test to take home and complete, and then return by mail. This arrangement with subjects presumably had a moral character in part because they were dismissed with the reminder that since they had received extra class credit for a certain amount of participation, and since they had signed up for participation, they had essentially contracted to complete all tests. The experimenter also made clear that he was trusting the subjects to complete and return the third test. The main measure of oral behavior was whether or not subjects returned this test. Application of discriminant analysis technique to the data revealed that neither a combination of moral reasoning variables alone nor a combination of personality variables alone could significantly predict return/nonreturn behavior. Hence the first and second hypotheses of the research were not confirmed in this study. The third hypothesis, however, was confirmed by a further discriminant analysis finding. This was that a discriminant function involving a combination of six moral reasoning and personality variables could be used to significantly predict return/nonreturn behavior. The percentage of return/nonreturn cases correctly classified when using this function was 86.54%. In discussing the results in was noted that the particular pattern of six discriminating variable involved in this function was not entirely predicted in advance, and that this increased the need to replicate the present findings. Nevertheless, conventional interpretation of the more important variables in this pattern yielded a composite moral reasoning/personality picture that seemed sensibly related to return and nonreturn behavior. Moreover, the findings served to point to the potential usefulness of employing a combination of characteristics of persons in order to predict moral behavior.


Richard P. Schellenberg

Date of Award

Spring 1982

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


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