Date of Award

6-12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Ann Cale Kruger - Chair

Abstract

A review of the literature in several domains reveals that moral imagination plays a role in how we deliberate about moral issues and what motivates us to act in a moral way. This study begins by outlining an operational definition of moral imagination based largely on Dewey’s model of dramatic rehearsal (Dewey, 1922), along with an explication of the role of image schemas, metaphor, empathy, and narrative in moral imagination (Johnson, 1993) and an examination of how moral imagination develops through the lifespan. A review of the research of the components of moral imagination is included, especially in the literature of moral development, problem solving, and creativity, as well as a proposal of an avenue of research to advance the understanding of this vital and complex human capacity. The study continues with an investigation of a curriculum designed to foster the cognitive processing of empathic emotions stimulated by viewing film clips from Hollywood-produced films. The curriculum stimulates moral imagination by offering situations in which participants can place themselves and then discuss possible moral outcomes. The curriculum is thought to aid in the development of moral expertise by exposing participants to a perspective-taking script from childhood (Hoffman, 2000) and making that script chronically accessible to the participant (Lapsley & Narvaez, in press). Three hundred sixty-six students (grades third through eighth) enrolled in after-school programs in two rural Georgia counties were randomly assigned to either an intervention or control group. The content of the intervention was delivered in a 3-week period in one county and in a 9-week period in the other. Results indicate that the longer intervention produced more gains in moral theme recognition (MTI; Narvaez, Gleason, Mitchell, & Bentley, 1999) compared to the shorter intervention. Participants in the shorter intervention demonstrated an attraction to moral theme statements reflecting higher stages of moral reasoning after the intervention than before compared to a control group from the same county. While further study is warranted, it appears the curriculum initiated a transition to higher stage reasoning in some of the participants.

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