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The Development of Morals and Intelligence

The Development of Morals and Intelligence

The essay aims to reveal and analyse the development of morals and intelligence from the perspectives of the respected and widely known scholars, such as Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlsberg. The author will first present certain scholars and their works, identifying their viewpoints on the issue. The paper will then analyse the difference between the perspectives in psychology with reference to relevant research studies, including “The Moral Judgement of the Child, The Development of Children’s Orientations toward a Moral Order: I. Sequence in the Development of Moral Thought, and Civilization and its Discontents.” Finally, it will evaluate alternative explanations of intellectual and moral development in human. The developmental psychology issues that the study will explore are the advancement of morals and the development of intelligence. The essay will discuss stages of the developmental process presented by several researchers and psychoanalysts. First, one will be able to see the analysis of differences between the moral development theories presented by Freud, Kohlsberg and Pigeat. The second part of the essay is the analysis of differences between the intelligence development theories presented by Pigeat and Vygotsky. The analysis of the all above mentioned theories follows the scrutinization of the differences between them.

Psychologists conducted numerous researches with regards to the moral development. The most interesting works for analysing are Piaget´s, Kohlsberg´s, and Freud´s theories. Each of the above mentioned representatives of the psychology science had his own view on the issue. For instance, the first stage of moral development, according to Piaget, is a heteronomous morality, which means the influence of authority (Pigeat 1932). In contrast, Kohlsberg states that the first level is pre-conventional morality, whereby an individual, namely a child, acts in accordance with the moral code because of the fear of punishment (Kohlsberg 1963). The next one, by Piaget, is titled research findings and predetermines that children are able to recognise the difference between a well-intentioned act that leads to worse consequences than expected and a careless, selfish or nasty act (Pigeat 1932). Kohlberg´s second stage represents conventional morality that states that authority is internalised but not questioned and logic is based on the rules of the group to which the individual belongs (Kohlsberg 1963). The third phase of moral development presented by Pigeat is autonomous morality where morality bases on individual´s own rules (Pigeat 1932). At this stage, Pigeat and Kohlsberg agree in their suggestions since Kohlberg also states that at the third stage people become independent in their morality. However, Kohlsberg titles this phase post-conventional morality and claims that most people do not reach this level throughout their life (Kohlsberg 1963).

As one can see, though having slight distinctions, the two theories outlined have a lot in common, especially in contrast to Freud´s theory of moral development. Freudian theory builds on the famous phenomena that he described himself: the id, the ego, and the superego. The psychoanalyst proposed the existene of a certain tension between the needs of the society and the individual’s ones (Freud 1962). The id focuses only on person´s desires regardless of their consequences; the ego controls the id, while the superego is the top of morality. According to Freud´s theory, once an individual is able to suppress his or her id and allow the superego to take its role, the moral development process commences (Freud 1962). In such a way, selfish desires of an individual are repressed and values that are established by the society become preferred. Logically then, the Freud´s theory also contains three stages, but still differs much from Pigeat´s and Kohlsberg´s ones. Moral development is closely tied with the development of intelligence.

The study of the development of intelligence can be looked at using a large number of approaches. Psychometric theorists state that intelligence development is influenced by numerous factors and changes that happen in childhood (Kaplan & Saccuzzo 2012). The concept of mental age is widely used as a simple example of intelligence development. The purpose of the method in question is to estimate a child’s mental functioning for a chronological age. During the first years of child’s development, his/her mental age corresponds to his/her physical age. However, at the age of 14 years, the mental age may still be 12. The similar situation happens when one tests a 25-year-old person; his/her mental age may be 23 or 24 years.


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The concept of mental age was widely popular in the first half of the 20th century, but today, many researchers believe that the age test does not take into account the fact that intellectual development is not a smooth continuity. It depends on many external factors, such as the social environment and personal surrounding. In addition, people demonstrate different patterns of intelligence development. At some point or timeframe, the intelligence development can be faster, but within some other time, it may be slowed down.

A Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget believes that a child explores the world and makes generalizations in accordance to the experience that he/she received before (Kaplan & Saccuzzo 2012). According to his theory, intelligence development derives from a cognitive process which includes the processes of accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation means that a child knows how to solve a problem because he/she has already solved similar tasks in the past. Accommodation is opposite to assimilation and means that a child has never faced such a problem before and has to find a solution on his/her own. Hence, the intelligence development represents an equilibrium between the two, which stimulates a child’s mental development.

A Russian psychologist L.S. Vygotsky had a different view on intelligence development. He believed that a child’s development is much influenced by interaction with others (Love & Guthrie 2011). A child monitors behaviours of other people, as well as the way they think and act. An Israeli psychologist Reuven Feuerstein supports this concept, stating that the key of intellectual development is mediated learning experience (Love & Guthrie 2011). A kid interprets the behaviour that is normmal in his/her environment. Through such mediation, the child observes the world and makes decisions in accordance to the experience received from his/her environment.

Analysing the theories presented in terms of moral development, one can point out that there might be some critical response to them. As such, Piaget’s theory of moral development can be viewed as a relevance of his ideas to cognitive growth in general. Per se, his theory has both weaknesses and strengths of his general theory. Pigeat utilises qualitative methods for his research basing on a small number of samples. His methods are not standardised and for that reason are not replicable. Besides, Pigeat´s statement that children under the age of 9 do not realize the consequences of an action is rather doubtful. Kohlsberg´s theory is close to Pigeat´s one; however, it is better organised and provides more serious arguments for the statements made. Consequently, Freudian theory of moral development appears to be the most appropriate and reliable one. The psychoanalyst made his framework as simple as possible; that is why it is very easy to understand and apply to oneself in order to make sure that it tells truth.


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The analysis of the theories presented by Pigeat and Vygotsky on the issue of intelligence development are rather strong. At the same time, they both are very narrow-focused; Pigeat takes into account only the personal aspect of intelligence development, while Vygotsky highlights only the social aspect. Therefore, the ideal theory of intelligence development should partly contain the notions of both. Thus, it is logical to assume that 50 percent of human intelligence development depends on an individual´s personal experience, while other 50 percent depend on the environment in which an individual grows up and lives.

To conclude, various researchers and psychoanalysts differently explain their vision of human development in terms of morality and intelligence. The essay shows that being rather strong, on the one hand, almost all theories tend to have its weaknesses, on the other hand. Sigmund Freud´s theory on the development of morals turns to be the strongest, simplest and the most original one. No other frameworks interrelate with his theory of the id, the ego, and the superego. In contrast to Freud, Pigeat´s and Kohlsberg´s theory resemble each other in many ways; the only difference is in the first stage. Regarding the theories presented by Pigeat and Vygotsky concerning the development of intelligence, one can see that both theories have well argumentation, but are narrow-focused. It means that both of them need to be revised and advanced in order to enhance their weaker aspects. The combination of these two theories would be a perfect presumption of intelligence development. It could be proved by numerous respected psychoanalysts and researchers as most of them agree either on one of these theories or on both of them. Besides, every individual can apply the abovementioned theories to his or her life and see that they both work. Consequently, one can state that both personal experience and the environment in which an individual lives play a very important role in his or her intelligence development.

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