Moral Competence Test (MCT)

1977 - 2021

Moralische Kompetenz Test (MKT)
Test del Compencia Moral (TCM)
The logos MCT / MKT / TCM / MCT / MUT / TMJ are copyrighted by Dr. Georg Lind.
Please do not pass on the test but refer interested parties to the author.

Last revision: April 2021

For downloading from protected sites, user = kohlberg, pvv = kmdd kurs.

Ideas for moral competence research

References on moral competence research

The Konstanzer Methode der Dilemma-Diskussion (KMDD)


The first article on the MCT (MUT/MJT) has been published in 1978: Lind (1978)

Most recent publication are Lind (2008) and Lind (2019)


Prof. Lawrence Kohlberg, Ph.D., Center for Moral Education, Harvard University:

"The methodology of Lind and his colleagues [...] I believe this to be a highly promising approach." (in: Lind et al., 2010, p. xvii).

Prof. Peter H. Rossi, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Social and Demographic Research Institute:

"I was delighted to [...] learn of your EQ method [he refers to my method of "Experimental Questionnaires" on which the MCT is based, GL]. Your method has a lot more theory behind it than we have put behind the idea of the Factorial Survey and, with your permission, I would borrow some of your ideas." (personal communication).

Prof. Michael Gross, Ph.D., Department of International Relations, University of Haifa, Israel:

"The [MCT] produces two sets of scores in an effort to distinquish between the affective and cognitive aspects of moral judgment, that is, between the moral preferences which one has and the ability to use them consistently. In this way the MCT offers a significant improvement over the single score interview technique which conflates these two elements." (p. 248) more

Prof. Dr. Manfred Schmitt, University of Trier, Department of Psychology:

"The advantages of an experimental questionnaire [...] make the MCT attractive and, in my opinion, superior to the DIT." (p. 12; my translation, GL) more

Prof. Dr. Horst Heidrink, University Hagen, Department of Psychology:

"The large size of the Vst [validity coefficient] in both studies can be interpreted as a clear support for the MCT, and also for the validity of Kohlberg's theory." (p. 91; my translation) more

For these and other references using and founding the MCT see more

The Moral Competence Test (MCT) makes a participant's moral-democratic competence visible. It does so objectively and without relying on dubious statistical assumptions as most psychometric tests do. Statistical tools are used only in order to translate the visible information into a score (the C-score, from 0 to 100) which allows us to study the nature, relevance. and teachability of moral-democratic competence.


From: Lind, G. (2019). How to teach moral competence. Berlin: Logos



Moral-democratic competence is defined as the ability to resolve problems and conflicts on the basis of one's moral principles through deliberation and discussion, instead of through violence and deceit, or through submitting to others.

In a more narrow sence, moral competence is defined as the ability to judge arguments by their moral quality instead of by their opinion-agreement or other non-moral criteria. This ability is made visible by the MCT.

  • "Dear user..." ... more

  • Before you use the MCT ... more

  • False use of the MCT ... more

  • List of certified versions of the MCT ... more

  • Downloading validated and certified versions of the MCT ... more (restricted access, contact author)

  • How to score the MCT: C-scores ... more (restricted access)

  • Corrections of the MCT ... more

  • If you want to use a newly translated version of the MCT: Submitting it to validation and certification ... more

  • Source: How to make moral competence visible (Lind 2019, Chapt 4)

  • More references for studies and reviews on Lind's Dual-Aspect Theory and the MCT ... more

  • A new methodology: The experimental design of the MCT ... more

  • Designing your study: The Art of Experimental Moral Psychology ... more

  • Ideas for research on the nature, relevance, and teachability of moral competence ... more

  • Constructing new dilemmas for the MCT ... more

  • MCT online (ask the author for details)

  • Cultural fairness of the MCT (Lind, 1995) | Cross-cultural validity of the MCT (Lind, 2003)

  • Glossary in several languages ... more

  • How it began ... more

  • Fake news about the MCT ... more

  • Frequently asked questions ... more

  • Copyright statement ... more

Dear MCT user,

thank you for your interest in the Moral Competence Test (MCT), formerly known as Moral Judgment Test (MJT).

As a researcher or teacher in a public institution you can use the MCT freely without fees. If you use it commercially, you need a written permission by me.

To prevent abuse, please do not publish or pass on the test and the password but refer people interested in the MCT to me. If you use the MCT for a dissertation study and your reviewer asks you to document the MCT, you may not include it into your dissertation (which you will publish). But you can provide it as an attachment for your reviewers only.

The MCT must not be changed in any way without submitting the changed version to a new validation and certification procedure. Changes, if well-intended, may impede its validity and comparability. If changed, the test must undergo a thorough re-validation study and be re-certified (if the validity tests are all positive).

Using and interpreting the MCT requires that you make yourself proficient in the underlying theory and research. For sources see: Lind, G. (2019). How to teach morality. Berlin: Logos.

The MCT allows you to assess simultaneously both distinct aspects of moral behavior: (1) Moral competence and (2) the six Kohlbergian Types of moral orientations. (It does not measure the Kohlbergian Stages!)

The MCT breaks new grounds in measurement methodology (see chapter 4 of Lind 2019):

  • Whereas almost all other tests measure only moral orientations, or some mixture of both aspects, the MCT is the only objective test that provides a pure index of both aspects separately: of moral competence and the six type of moral orientations.

  • Moral competence is operationally defined as the ability to rate arguments according to their moral quality instead of to their opinion agreement or other criteria.

  • The MCT does not rely on dubious statistical models but makes moral competence direcly visible like an X-ray. It is not a "latent construct" of any sort, but a real, observable trait of people.

  • In order to submit this visiualization for further analysis, it is transformed into a score, the "C-score" ("C" stands for competence). This is done through a multivariate analysis of variance components. The score is made so it ranges from 0 to 100. Please report always the raw C-scores (one decimal point suffices), not categories. Only then other researchers can use your findings for comparison.

  • Based over forty years of research, I suggest to regard mean differences of two C-points as psychologically significant, and of five C-points as educationally effective. The mean C-scores should be based on samples of at least ten participants in each category of comparison because individual scores can vary because of circumstances of the test-taking.

  • In absolute terms, only a C-score larger than twenty (C > 20.0) seems to indicate that a person's moral orientations excert some power of his or her behavior. At this score internal control seems to set in, making outside control more and more obsolete. This finding refers to groups of people, it must NOT be applied to individual persons! More research is needed.

  • The MCT is a psychological (not a statistical) test: it is based on well researched psychological theory, not on statistical assumptions like most other tests. For example, the MCT uses participant's consistency of responses as a sign of his or her moral competence. Therefore, "inconsistency" must not be discarded as "measurement error". For the MCT, the term "statistical reliability" is meaningless. It has, of course, also not be submitted to statistical item-selection and test analysis in order to make the test fit a statistical model.

  • Because it is a psychological test, the MCT's four central diagnostic hypotheses have been submitted to rigorous experimental tests, in order to secure its psychological validity: (1) the six type of moral orientations are preferred in a predictable order, (2) the C-score cannot be faked upward, (3) moral competence and type of moral orientations are "parallel", and (4) the correlations among the preferences for the six types form a simplex structure. Although the a priori probability of accidentally confirming these four criteria is extremely small, all studies have so far shown that the MCT meets all four criteria well.

More advise for research design, instruction for the participants (especially when re-tested) and reporting MCT findings, as well as about possible errors of interpreting MCT findings are listed and explained below.

For empirical and theoretical studies related to moral judgment competence visit this site: If you search for ideas for experimental studies on the nature, relevance and education of moral competence, click here.

Moral competence can be very effectively fostered with the Konstanzer Methode der Dilemma-Diskussion (KMDD)® and its related method of Discussion Theater (DT). If you are also interested in learning how to foster moral and democratic competenceand about KMDD-Teacher training and certification, see:

I invite you to present your research and experience with the MCT and the KMDD at our annual international symposium on "Moral Competence: Its Nature, Relevance, and Education": see

If you do studies with the MCT, I would appreciate very much if you could let me have your raw data for my MCT data base after you have used them and your reports in English or German.

(Last revision: March 1, 2020)

Glossaries with important terminology

  • English ( Original)
  • Deutsch (Original)
  • Polish (translation by Ewa Nowak)
  • Spanish (in progress)
  • Portuguese (translation by Patricia Bataglia, in progress)

Before you use the MCT

Before you use the MCT, you should have some basic understanding of moral psychology and should make yourself acquainted with the theory behind the MCT (Lind 2019). Otherwise you may risk to misinterpret your findings.

If you have specific questions, you can consult the section "Frequently Asked Questions" below for a quick answer.

Before you start planing your research or self-evaluation study, you may be interested to read the following advice, which is based an over 40 years of research and evaluation in the field of moral psychology and education especially with the MCT:

  • It is important to be aware of biasing factors in MCT research in order to draw correct conclusions from your findings. Below I will discuss factors which can bias C-scores downward. The question, whether these factors should be considered either as "measurement error" or as substantial influences which need to be discussed, cannot be answered once for ever. You, the researcher must decide what the best interpretation is, and must defend this with good reasons. Whatsoever: Always keep your analysis fully transparent for the reader!
  • The MCT is a competence test. Like all tests of competence, ability, proficiency etc., the MCT cannot be faked upward (Wasel, 1994; Lind, 2002). But a person's moral competence score (C-score) can be lower than his or her real competende because of circumstances which may depress the test score. Many of these circumstances causing biases of measurement are listed below.
  • The strongest biasing factors are the fear of being evaluated and the shortage of time. Both can depress the C-score. Therefore, do not make the MCT look like a high stakes test which produces fear and anxiety (unless you have chosen to study these factors more closely). Fear can be created by the instruction to give the "right" answers, or by implict sigmals like placing the MCT behind a high stakes mental test, letting a feared authority for the participants administer the test or be mentioned as director of the research; having the participants place their names on the questionnaire; etc. The MCT should only be used anonymously!
  • The MCT contains a difficult task for most participants! Only when participants are confronted with a really difficult task can we observe and measure his or her competence. A test without a difficult task can never let us measure competence. Hence, it is quite natural that some participants complain about the difficulty of the MCT.
  • Instruction for participants:
    • Make the instructions as short as possible, and as long as necessary. Avoid words which the participants do not understand or may mis-understand. E.g., "moral" is such a potential confuser. Say, for example: "This questionnaire contains two stories in which people have to solve a conflict. What do you say about their solution, and about the arguments that people have given on these stories?"
    • Repeated measurement: If you want your participants to fill out the MCT more than one time (e.g., if you want to use it for measuring the effect size of an intervention), you must make the participants aware of this, otherwise they might feel irritated and get lower C-scores: "This questionnaire contains again the two stories in which people have to solve a conflict. We are interested to see how your answer have changed. What do you say about their solution, and about the arguments that people have given on these stories?"
  • Administering the MCT: If you cannot control the conditions in which the MCT is administered, you should at least make sure that they are always the same for all your participants, and that you know how the test was administered, so you can document this in your research report. Only this way you can be sure that the C-scores reflect differences between the participants' moral competence and not differences between the conditions of test-taking. Good documentation of the test-taking situation helps to make valid inferences from comparing MCT-findings across studies with different test-taking conditions.
  • Never delete data, at least not before you have documented and analyzed them! It can happen that some participants do not fill out the MCT completely or show pattern of responses which appear to be invalid to you. Deleting these data must be considered a breach of scientific standards, and also a waste. Some of the incomplete data can be used for analysis. If not more than two answers are left out, you can substitute them by the individual mean value (please count these cases and include this count into your research report) and include them in your analysis. If you have many cases you should do some analyses with and without these cases, seeing how this might change your central findings. Cases with more than two missing data in the standard MCT should not be included in your analysis but you should inform your reader about this in your research report.
  • Again: Never delete cases whose response pattern appear invalid to you! By throwing away such data you create a bias because you are likely to throw away data which indicate low moral competence. Deleting these data increases artificially the mean C-score.
  • The MCT has been rigorously validated over a period of 40 years (Lind, 2019). This validation was more rigorous than usual. Yet it is certainly not perfect. In some circumstances it may not function as it should. Then you should insist on critical discussion and revision of the test. However, be sure that unexpected results are really artefacts. They could also indicate some new phenomenon which should be studied in its own rights. "Segmentation" is such a phenomenon through which we became aware of the depressing impact of various kinds of authority and fear on moral judgment competence. Instead of changing the MCT in order to rid segmentation, we dicided to let the MCT unchanged in order to measure segmentation. Possibly, for the observation of certain types of authority and fear, we need to develop new dilemmas.
  • When you analyze your data, remember that if you are interested in small increases of moral competence you must repeat your measurement several times in order to get accurate and stable differences. Mostly it will suffices to base the measurement of the effect size of an intervention on the data of about 10 individuals. If you are interested in small differences, you should increase the number of individuals used for calculating the mean C-scores. The exact determination of numbers must be left to future research. For now it suffices to say: take more individuals if you want to be on the safe side.
  • Follow the conventions for the graphical display of findings. This allows the reader to make quick comparisions between similar studies and their findings, and to prevent false impressions. If the Y-axis is stretched too much even the smallest differences appear to be large. Use these conventions:
    • Depict the C-score on the vertical Y-axis. The Y-axis should range from "0" to "40" (if higher scores are to be reported, the Y-axis should be made longer). Most statistical programs allow you to set this range manually.
    • Mean acceptance on Y-axis: If the (mean) acceptance score for the six moral orientations are given, the y-axis should range at least from "-4" to "+4".
    • Digits: In the graphs, the numbers should always be shown with only one digit behind the decimal point (e.g., C = 15.5). More digits allege a higher accuracy than is available, and they blur the picture.
    • Report alway absolute effect size (aES). These measure does not depend on the features of the particular study (like sample size and variance of data) and therefore can be uses for comparision across studies on the same topic. For more information and for the calculating formula, see Lind (2016). In contrast, conventional measures of effect size are misleading: "Statistical significance" depends mostly on the size of the sample: The larger the sample, the smaller the effect that is called "significant". Measures of relative effect size (rES) like r and d are somewhat better because they do not depend on sample size. However, the depend on the empirical varitation of the scores and thus also depend on the characteristics of the used sample. Therefore they cannot be easily compared between studies. You may use them in addition when your supervisor or editor forces you to do so.
  • Interpretation of the C-score: The interpretation of the C-score as "low", "high" or "changing" etc. depends on the state of our knowledge about the meaning of the C-score. In other words, this interpretation will change of time and will change from one study to the next. Therefore it is very important that you report the original C-scores for the effects and groups which you are studying. This way the readers are free to make their own interpretations. At the present time, I consider a C-score of 20.0 as a kind of threshold. Experimental studies indicated that people's behavior in various domains improved markedly if their moral competence increases beyond this level (Lind 2019).
  • If you have also suggestions for improving MCT research, please send me a note.

Corrections of the MCT

1976 - The Moral Competence Test (MCT / MJT) has been first published und used 1976.

1977 - Some minor revisions of the arguments have been made on the basis of an empirical study with high school graduates ("Abiturienten-Befragung"). This 1977 version of the MCT is the standard version. This revision improved the validity of the test. Since then, a few linguistic changes have been made which do not affect the validity of the test (see below).

2001 - The response scale text has been changed from "Completely acceptable" and "Completely unacceptable" to "I strongly accept" and "I strongly reject." This is to make sure that "acceptance" means an action of the participant, and not a property of an argument.

2006 - Dr. Klaus Zierer developed a grade-school version of the MCT (3r to 4th grade). This version consists of a new story (only one story). It is not directly comparable with the standard MCT.

2008 - Christine Naegele worked on a text simplification of the MCT (German master version), yet did not complete it. Meanwhile we found out that the standard version also works well with 8 - 11 year olds if small changes are made:

  • Larger fonts.
  • Shorter response scale (-2 to +2) instead of -4 to +4.
  • Assistance is given with difficult words (but, of course, not with answering).

2009 - Change from “The doctor complied with the wish of the woman.” to: “The doctor decided to give her an overdose of morphine”. Because we cannot know whether the doctor “complied” or whether he did it for another reason.

2012 - Some wording of the English version of the MCT has been improved without touching words with a moral connotation. This revision was proposed and carried out by Vitaliy Troyakov, M.A., Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, with approval by Dr. Lind.

2013 - German version: Replacement of “dass” (that) by “weil” (because) in the workers story (suggestion by Konstanze Schillinger, 10 years old). It makes reading easier.

2014 - In the English version, in item #15 the word "ignore" was missing, as George Reeves Stevens has rightly pointed out to me. Thanks, George! The downloadable English version has been corrected accordingly. (Amazingly hundreds administered it, and thousands filled it out, without noticing the ommission.)
The correct wording of item #15 is:

"because the doctor had to act according to his conscience and what he believed was right. The woman's pain made it right for the doctor to ignore his moral obligation to preserve life." (Doctor's dilemma, pro, first argument)

2014 - Change of name of the Moral Judgment Test (MJT) to Moral Competence Test (MCT). In German from Moralisches Urteil-Test (MUT) to Moralische Kompetenz-Test (MKT).

False Use of the MCT

  • The MCT does not measure Kohlbergian Stages of moral development.

Kohlberg's Stage scores (and the derived scores Moral Maturity Scoresa, MMS, WAS) are a confounded measure of moral orientations and moral competence. The indicate the highest stage which a participants uses consistently in the Moral Judgment Interview (Colby, Kohlberg et al., 1987).

The MCT provides a pure measure of moral competence. ... more

  • The dilemma stories must not be ommitted, replaced, or added.

If a dilemma is ommitted, or replaced, from the MCT, or if new dilemmas are added, the MCT must again be validated and certified as valid. Otherwise the new test's validity is unknown and the new test must not be called anymore "MCT". The new test must be given a new name. The reader must be informed if parts of the original MCT are used, and that the resulting scores cannot be compared with the standardf MCT's C-score.

  • MCT's arguments must not be changed without re-validation and re-certification of the test.

If changes of an argument of the MCT seem necessary, please inform the author. The revised test must be newly submitted to a validation study and be re-certified.

  • The C-index must be reported if the MCT is used. Always report the raw scores, not categories. One decimal point is accurate enough. See the guidelines for scoring.

If in a research report the C-index is not reported, the reader of should be informed about this ommission.

  • The MCT must not be used for individual selecting, grading, or santioning people.

Using the MCT for high stakes purposes is considered as a serious abuse of the MCT. The MCT has not been constructed and validated for these purposes. Moreover, the use of the MCT for selecting or grading people provokes attempts to falsify and fake the MCT, which diminishes the test's value for research and program evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the standard version and standard administration & instruction of the MCT ? ... more

  • What does the MCT measure? ... more

  • For what age groups can the MCT be used? ... more

  • List for checking possible sources of error ... more

  • The MCT is too difficult for my participants ... more

  • What is the psychological and methodological background of the MCT? ... more

  • Is the MCT a 'preference' test? ... more

  • Is the MCT similar to the DIT? ... more

  • Can I calculate a Stage score from the MCT data? ... more

  • Can one apply the rationale behind the C-score to any test? ... more

  • Applying the MCT to participants with little or low education ..more

  • Where can I get a copy of the MCT and different language versions? ... more

  • Can the MCT be Used for High-Stakes Testing and Diagnostics? ... more

  • Can we interpret an individual's MCT data? ... more

  • Can I construct a new dilemma myself? ... more

  • How do I have to prepare the raw data to get them scored? ... more

  • How can we reduce test-taking fatigue in follow-up studies? ... more

  • How can one protect privacy in follow-up studies ...more

  • Why do you call the MCT a "N=1 experiment" or Experimental Questionnaire? ... more

  • How do I have to prepare the raw data for getting them scored by you?... more

  • Missing data: What if a participant has not fillied out all 26 question of the standard MCT? ... more

  • Is the MCT valid? ... more

  • Is the MCT reliable? ... more

  • More FAQs ... more

What does the MCT measure?

The MCT measures two aspects of human behavior:

  1. Moral competence as defined by Lind (2008; 2019). This is the ability to solve problems and conflicts on the basis of moral orientations through thinking and discussion, instead of through violence, deceit, or bowing down to others. Specifically the MCT measures the respondet's ability to rate argument (for and against a protagonist's decision in a dilemma situation) in regard to their moral quality rather than in regard to their opinion-agreement. For most participants this is a difficult or even very difficult task. On the C-scale from 0 to 100, only a few respondents get scores higher than 40.While there are many tests of moral preferences or attitudes, the MCT is one of the few, if not the only, instrument which produces a pure measure of moral competence, and contains a moral task for the participant.
  2. Moral orientations, that is the degree of acceptance or rejection of the six moral orientations which Kohlberg uses to define his Stages of Moral Development. Each of these six moral orientations is represented in the test by four arguments (on two dilemma stories and two sides of the decision).

The MCT is the only test which lets us assess both aspects simultaneously while NOT confusing these two aspects into a single, mixed score, as is done in other scoring systems, like that of Lawrence Kohlberg and of James Rest.


What is the standards version of the MCT and what is the standard administration and instruction of the test?

The standard version of the MCT consists of two dilemmas (Doctor's Dilemma [mercy killing], and Workers' Dilemma [breaking into a firm]) constructed in its present form in 1977, and then only slightly modified for stylistic reasons. The standard version and the certified foreign language versions have been rigorously validated, and used in many studies around the world including several thousand participants.
If an uncertified modified version of the MCT is used, this must be noted in the publication to caution the reader.

The standard administration is this:
- No speed test (only when the response times are extremely long, the participant may be encouraged to make up his/her mind).
- Instruction: "Please read the following stories, in which people have to make a decision, and decide whether the person's decision was right or wrong. Then rate the arguments following the stories whether you accept or reject them."
- Instruction for follow-up survey: "Next you will find the same task as in the first survey. Please respond to it as sincerely as you did the first time, so one can see how your answer have changed. ...[continue as above].


What is the psychological and methodological background of the MCT?

The MCT rests on Lind's Dual-Aspect Theory of moral judgment behavior (see Lind, 2002; 2019), which borrows one of its two central psychological concepts -- the concept of cognition and affect being two inseparable, but distinguishable aspects (rather than two separable components or substances) -- from Spinoza, Piaget, and Kohlberg (though Kohlberg's writing seems to fluctuate between an one-component (= one substance) point of view on the one hand and a multiple component point of view on the other). The other psychological concept, the concept of moral judgment competence is taken directly from Kohlberg (1964), who defines this as "the capacity to make decisions and judgments which are moral (i.e., based on internal principles) and to act in accordance with such judgments" (p. 425). Interestingly, Darwin already has talked about "moral competencies" (see above). Yet only Kohlberg has attempted to measure it, trespassing the border between the cognitive and the affective domain, a border erected by many psychological theorists (e.g., Bloom et al., 1956; Rest & Narvaez, 1995).

The methodology of the MCT, the concept of Experimental Questionnaire (Lind, 1980; 2006, 2019), has a cognitive science background, rooting in N. Anderson's concept of cognitive algebra, G. A. Kelly's personal construct Theory, W.S. Torgerson's concept of response-stimulus scaling, L. Guttman's measurement as structural theory, Egon Brunswik's diacritical method (Lind 2017), and L. Kohlberg's postulate of moral competencies or structure as manifest pattern of behavior (Kohlberg 1984, p. 407).

More references see here.


Is the MCT a preference test?

No, the MCT is a competence test. Psychologists basically distinguish two kinds of psychological dispositions which they measure: competencies (or abilities or cognitive structures) on one hand and attitudes (inclinations, motivations, values) on the other. The most distinctive feature of these two kinds of psychological measures is whether or not the test's measures can be simulated "upward." Clearly, participants should not be able to fake competence scores upward, but attitudes measures they can.
The distinction between 'preference' and 'production' tests is mostly irrelevant for the question whether or not a test measures a competence. The MCT is often called a "preference" test because the participant is asked whether s/he would accept or reject (=prefer or not prefer) a series of arguments, in contrast to Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Interview in which the participant is to elicit ("produce") his/her moral philosophical orientations while discussing the solution of certain moral dilemmas.
But this distinction characterizes only the response mode but not the nature of the target disposition which is to be measured (e.g., competence or attitude). There are many scholastic aptitude tests which are closed (the correct answer has to be "preferred") but which nobody would call a preference test.
Similarly, there are attitude tests which use an open format. The only difficulty they have for the interviewee is to articulate their preferences in their own words. Because moral measurement is not testing linguistic ability, the scoring procedure for an production test must make sure that it is not biased toward higher linguistic skills by some means. Kohlberg's scoring system does so by various means, amongst other by the so-called "upper-stage inclusion rule" (Colby et al., 1987, p. 177; for a critical discussion see Lind, 1989).

Colby, A., Kohlberg, L., Abrahami, A., Gibbs, J., Higgins, A., & ... (1987). The measurement of moral judgment. Volume I, Theoretical foundations and research validation. New York Columbia University Press.


Is the MCT similar to the Defining-Issues-Test, DIT?

No, not at all, although some textbooks say so.

The MCT is fundamentally different from the DIT. The MCT is a moral competence test (see above), though it also allows the researcher to assess simultaneously participants' moral orientations (attitudes, preferences). In contrast to most, if not all other tests of moral development, the MCT contains a moral task, namely the task for the participants to apply their moral orientations consistently regardless of the opinion-agreement of the arguments to be rated. The design of the test is experimental, three-factorial, with pro and contra arguments balanced.

In contrast, the Defining-Issues-Test (DIT) by James Rest measures only the preference for post-conventional moral reasoning: "The P score of the DIT provides a percent score that indicates the amount of post-conventional thinking (in contrast to other kinds of thinking) preferred by the participant." (Narvaez, 1998, S. 15). The DIT contains no moral task. The DIT's P-score does not let one assess the preference for low-stage moral orientations.

It is not difficult to simulated DIT scores (P-score) upward (Emler et al. 1983) because it is no competence test.

Both tests have been compared and contrasted in validation and in intervention studies, e.g., by Schmitt (1982), Lind (1996a, b; 2019), Ishida (2006) and Kim (2006).

A narrower comparison of the two scoring techniques (P-score versus C-score) only for the DIT has been made by Rest et al. (1997). Because the DIT does not contain a moral task and is not designed as a multi-factorial, N=1 experiment like the MCT, using the C-score with the DIT is not meaningful.

Narvaez, D. (1998). The influence of moral schemas on the reconstruction of moral narratives in eighth graders and college students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 13-24.

Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997). Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.

In sum, both tests differ fundamentally with regard to their methodology. The MCT is based on psychological theory and uses multivariate experimental design in order to make moral competence visible in the respondents' pattern of ratings of carfully designed arguments. For moral psychology, consistency of responses is a sign of moral competence, not of the test.
In contrast, the DIT is based on statistical theory (Classical Test Theory and Item Response Theory). For this theory, consistency of responses is a sign of the test's "reliability". This assumption makes moral competence inaccessible.


Can I calculate a Kohlbergian Stage score from MCT data?

No. Kohlbergian Stage Score are a mixture of cognitive-structural and affective-content aspects of moral behavior, wheras the MCT produces separate pure scores for each of the two aspect of moral behavior (cf. Lind 2019), Kohlberg's scoring system produces one combined score for both aspects: A persons gets assigned the highest out of six "Stages" only a) if he or she prefers the moral orientations typical for Stage 6 over all other Stages, and b) if she or her does so with a certain consistency. Theoretically, the Stage scoring system produces only six values, assuming that a person's moral judgment is always on only one stage, amd not spreaded over several Stages. Practically, Kohbleg and his associated do not adher to their theory, but calculate fractionat Stages and so-called Moral Maturity Scores, ranging from 100 to 600 (or sometimes, 500).
The Stage theory of moral development has lost grounds, and is now replaced by a more multifaceted theory which accounts for the separate nature and development of the two aspects of moral behavior and for the fact that regression of moral competencies can occur (Lind 1985a; 1985b; 2016). A combined Stage score is no longer meaningfull because it blinds us for these differences.


Can one apply the rationale behind the C-score to any test?

Only partly. The content and the experimental design of the MCT are based on research and theory about the nature and development of moral behavior (see Lind 2019). In principle, this idea -- basing a test on a well-researched theory and using experimental design -- can be profitably used on all fields of psychological measurement. Yet, often such a theoretical basis missing, so that no experimental design is possible. A moral atitude test cannot be turned into a morel competence test just by a special kind of scoring if there is no moral task included in it. When C is calculated for a moral preference test like the DIT, the C means only some kind of cross-situational consistency of moral preferences but not competence (Lind 1996)..


Where can I get a copy of the MCT? Where can I get a specific language version of the MCT?

The original German version of the MCT (formerly called "Moralisches Urteil Test", MUT) and validated foreign language versions can be obtained from the author. Contact:

In your request, please explain briefly your institutional affiliation and the purpose of the use of the MCT.

The MCT can be used freely by members of public institution of education and research if not used commercially. For all others, written permission by the author(s) must be obtained.


Can the MCT be used for high-stakes testing and diagnostics?

No! This would be an abuse of the MCT. The MCT has been designed to answer important research questions like "What fosters moral judgment competence?" "How relevant is moral judgment competence for other kinds of behavior like cheating, helping, learning or decision-making?" And it has been designed for evaluating programs of moral and character education. (see Lind, 2002; 2019) ... more.
The MCT has not been designed for, and must not be used for, selecting or sanctioning people or groups of people ("high stakes testing"). The latter use would clearly be an instance of misuse ... more.

Can we interpret an individual's MCT data? New.

The scores for the two aspects of moral behavior -- moral competence and moral orientation -- are computed from individual response pattern. However, the C-scores of individual persons cannot be easily interpreted for individual participants. Besides the target trait (moral competence), test taking-behavior can be determined by many other factors which can hardly be identified and singled out: fatigue, attitude toward the test and the test administrator, associations created by the particular dilemma, time pressure, priming by achievement tests given before, etc. Most of these factor can cause the C-score (the indicator for moral judgment competence) to decrease more or less. So we could err considerably if we take the C-score of an individual as hir or her "true score" and judge him/her accordingly.

Therefore, indvidual MCT scores should be used very carefully or not be used at all. Never should their names be made public or should individual scores be reported to the participants.

Yet, when the C-score is averaged across several people (N > 10 and more), these factors usually cancel each other out. This is especially the case when the MCT is used to measure the effect of an educational program like the effect of a KMDD-intervention or of a school year. In this case, the focus is on the difference between average pretest and average posttest C-scores. Unless there is a systematic bias in the research design, most disturbing factors are similar for the pretest as for the posttest measurement, so that the difference C-score gives us a reliable measure of effect size, evene when the score at both times are depressed.

My advice: Do not even look at an individual's C-score. Inadvertently, you will make a false judgment on the persons who filled out the MCT.

List of checks for possible sources of error in calculating and interpreting C-score data.

  • Problem with data processing:

    • Mistakes with putting the data into the computer: check each questionnaire for errors.

    • Interchange of the two dilemma-stories when gathering the filled out questionnaires or when keying in the data into the computer.

    • Wrong naming of the variables, that is In numerical order [w_p_1, w_p_2, w_p_3,...] instead of the real (random) order of the variables of the MCT (W_P_1, W_P_4, W_P_3, W_P_6, ...)

    • Manual sorting of the raw data is very error prone and, therefore, should never be done.

    • Mistakes in the scoring program: test your scoring script with known data, e.g. with these data:

  • Problems with the test instruction that can lower the C-score.

    • Was the test-administrator well-trained? Did he or she degrade the test during the test-administration?
    • Did you tell the participants that the survey was only to collect data for your thesis? (People are usually not inclined to work for your career as an unpaid aid.)
    • Annoyance: Repeated use of the standard MCT has not been explained to the participants: Did you explain to them that you give them the same questions because you want to see whether and how their answers change? (Yes, should be the answer here.)
  • Problems with circumstances of questionnaire-taking which have been found to lower the C-score

    • Time pressure: Were the participants instructed to make quick answers? Had the participants meet a deadline or schedule?

    • New: When the participants expect to get money or credits for taking the MCT. Then they get more pay out of it if they fill out the MCT sloppily. Typically, filling out the MCT takes eight to fifteen minutes. If the participants finish within five or less minutes, their answers will hardly reflect their true moral competence. (An US psychologists reported that US-students' average fill-out time was 3,5 minutes, which is unique. It would explain why they have by far the lowest moral competence scores of students world-wide.)

    • Testing fatigue: Has the MCT been part of a larger questionnaire and has it been given after many other questions?

    • Testing anxiety: Has the MCT been perceived as a kind of (ethical) knowledge test or ethical intelligence test?

    • Cross-over effects from other parts of the questionnaire:

      • A preceding speed-test (for assessing IQ or specific abilities) may "prime" the participant to also view the MCT as speed task. Solution: present the MCT first.

      • If the MCT is embedded in a questionnaire that has no obvious relationship to it, the participants may show bewilderment and develop negative feelings toward the MCT. Solution: Alert the participant to this change of topics; rarely an explanation is needed.

  • If there is not technical explanation for low C-scores, your results may indicate severe problems of the learning environment
    • Low ethical standards of recruitment to this profession: The profession serves only to make money

    • Few or no opportunities for responsibility-taking through out high school and study

    • Emphasis solely on learning by rote

    • Traditional ethics teaching: learning many ethical concepts and theories

  • Other possible causes of low C-scores:
    • Administration of the test on the door-step (by commercial interviewers) (know cause)
    • Payment for taking the test can lower text-taking motivation (suspected cause)

    • Self-constructed, non-certified version of the MCT: Did you use the standard MCT?

    • Wrong translation: Did you use a certified version of the standard MCT?

If you wish you can send me your raw data for checking the validity of your data. For the reqired format of you data see: [A service fee may apply. Please inquire.]

Only if none of the technical explanation for low C-scores cited above apply, your results may indicate severe problems of the tested curriculum:

  • Few or no opportunities for responsibility-taking through out high school and study

  • Emphasis solely on rote learning

  • Traditional ethics teaching: only ethical concepts and theories

  • No practical training of moral and democratic competence (see: the Konstanz Method of Dilemma-Discussion, KMDD)


Can I construct a new dilemma story myself?

The construction of new dilemmas is possbile but very difficult. Please note that the standard MCT is applicable in most cases even though it may lack "face validity" in a particular context.

If you want to construct a new dilemma for the MCT, please read the guidelines.

After construction you can get your new dilemma certified (see certification procedure) in order to label it "certified MCT-extended." New dilemmas without a certificate should not carry the label "MCT" or "MCT-extended."

The criteria for validating new dilemmas for the MCT are as rigorous as for the standard MCT, to ensure that the new dilemma measures moral judgment competence. In order to get a new dilemma certified, the raw data of the validation study must be sent to the author.

The MCT is too difficult for my participants. I want to construct a new test with an easier topic ...

Dear Georg

... Results are not very promising, I honestly think that the test was too dificult for them. I'm also not entirely satisfied with the translation. I've read that Kohlberg had a story about some little girl so it might be better to develop a test with a subject more interesting to them and closer to their age.



Dear Vanja,
I hope you do not mind if I comment on your thoughts.
I do not think that the test should be changed just because the scores were low. Would you change the meter-stick because the things which you measured were shorter than you expected?
Or do you have a specific hypotheses, e.g., that the stories are not adequate for your sample? We chose the stories to "pull" the highest possible level of moral competence. If you use "easier" stories (like Kohlberg's girl story), you may even get lower C-scores because such stories do not require the highest level of moral competence for solving the conflict. I have not heard from any of the many studies in which the MCT was used that participants complaint about the two stories as boring. On the contrary, many reported that even young children were quite interested in the stories. Why should that be different in your sample? Did the participants say so?
We made several attempts to construct new "dilemmas" -- with no success. Their validity was always very low so that we had to give up. Moreover, if you make a new measure (which is very time consuming and expensive) you cannot compare your findings with the  the existing studies.
By the way, the average C-score of your sample was within the range which I would expect. If it was "too difficult", the scores would have been lower.

Yes, the MCT is a difficult test because it is a competence test: For most people it is a very big challenge to deal with counter-arguments, especially if the democratic culture is not developed high yet. If people are very religious, the C-sores are generally very low. See the research by Iuliana Lupu (2009) about Romanian students, by Soudabeh Saeidi (2011) about Iranian students, and by Abdul Wahab Liaquat (2012) about Pakistanian students. In these countries religion plays a big role and the moral competence is low: /mut/mjt-references.htm . Could this be the case in your country, too?
Best regards, Georg

How can we protect privacy in follow-up studies?

To protect privacy, we use a special code instead of the names of the participants. The code consists of the house number (last two digits, e.g., 05), the day of birth (e.g., 24, when the birthday is Oct. 24), the first two letters of mother's first name and the first two letters of father's name or, if the father is not known, grandfather's first name.

How can we reduce test-taking fatigue?

With repeated measurement, usually the problem is not a learning effect (i.e., artificial elevation of scores due to test knowledge) but fatigue and frustration that lowers the scores. When used for evaluating educational or therapeutic interventions in a pretest-posttest design, some subjects may respond with test-taking fatigue or frustration because of the fact that the test is administered twice within a rather short period of time (a few weeks or months apart). Such reactions often lead to lower C-scores and an underestimation of intervention or therapy effects.

According to our experience, this problem can be solved through proper instruction ... more

How do I have to prepare the raw data to get them scored?

If you use the standard MCT without any modifications in the ordering of the items, a scoring service is available on request for a fee. For this the raw data must be submitted for scoring in this form:
- Ordering of data as in the standard MCT; that is, no manual re-ordering according to item stages; manual re-ordering is more error prone than re-ordering through a scoring program.
- Minimum additional information: Interview ID or consecutive numbering; data of opinion on each dilemma and of all 12 arguments per dilemma. Desirable would also be information on age, gender, and level of education in order to check on the validity of the MCT data
- All data in text-format; TABs as delimiters; first row: names of the variables/columns

Error in older scoring guideline corrected

In an early guideline, the stage code for the third and fourth pro argument in the doctor dilemma was false; it must be corrected as indicated in the table below:

  Doctor Dilemma PRO-Arguments
False Stage Code
Correct Stage Code

MCT-data which have been scored in Konstanz are not affected.


Missing data: What if a participant has not fillied out all 26 questions of the standard MCT?

If you use an online-version of the MCT which checks automatically for missing data and reminds the participant to complete his or her answers, missing data cannot occur.

Otherwise, missing data can be a problem for the scoring of the MCT. In my experience, missing data are usually not made on purpose but are caused by distractions and fatigue. Therefore you should make sure in your instruction of the participants that they do not forget to answer out all questions. Also you should allow for sufficient time for answering the MCT. In some cases missing data can be caused by the wording of the MCT if the participants are very young or have little reading proficiency (you are allowed to explain difficult words to the participant). Note that the wording of arguments must not be changed. A change would require the modified test to be validated and certified again. However, the wording of the story can be carefully modified to enhance readability.

If the questions about the decision of the protagonist is omitted, the C-score can still be calculated. However, omission of these two questions are a problem if you want to calculate scores that involve "opinion agreement."

If only one or two responses to the 24 arguments are missing, we replace missing data by the individual mean score that are calculated on the bases of the other 22 or 23 responses of that participant. This seems to be the most neutral way to replace missing data. (Do not forget to document the number of cases with missing data in your research report.) To make sure that this replacement has no biasing effect, you should run your most central analyses both with and without the modified data and compare the findings.

As a matter of convention, we discard all participants (cases) from analysis who have more than 2 missing data. (Do not forget to mention this in your research report.) Their C-score cannot be validly interpreted. In some instances, it may be interesting to analyze this phenomenon. If it cannot be explained as a technical problem, it may indicate a psychological process which deserves attention.


Is the MCT valid?

Yes, the MCT is highly valid because it has been put to more rigorous validity analysis than most if not all other tests of moral development.

The MCT has been submitted to more rigorous validation process than most psychological measures. The criteria chosen for checking its validity are so demanding that even minor defects of the test would have been detected. These criteria have also proven to be very effective in securing the validity of new dilemmas and the cross-cultural validity of more than thirty foreign language versions of the MCT (see Lind, 2016; certification procedure).

Moreover, it should be noted that the MCT has not been submitted to "item-selection" in order to increase the likelihood of confirming any of the predictions to be tested with the MCT. For example, no items have been omitted or included in order to maximize correlation with age. Thus the MCT is not biased for or against a specific assumption.

Note that validity is not just an attribute of a test but of the whole measurement procedure including its interpretation: "Validity is an integrated evaluative judgment of the degree to which empirical evidence and theoretical rationales support the adequacy and appropriateness of inferences and actions based on test scores or other modes of assessment" (Messick, 1989, p. 13, emphasis added). Hence, the MCT can claim validity only if one administers it according to the standard procedure described above, and if the user has sufficient psychological knowledge about the Dual-Aspect-Theory of moral behavior and development (see above) to be able to interpret MCT scores adequately.

Over the past 40 years the MCT has shown to be very useful for testing theoretical assumptions about moral behavior and development and about the effect size of certain educational programs (Lind 2002).

Messick, S. (1989). Validity. In R.L. Linn, ed., Educational measurement (3rd ed.), pp. 13-103. New York: Macmillan.


Is the MCT reliable?

Yes, the MCT is highly reliable, not only in the conventional way but also in more meaningful ways, too:

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that neither its administration nor its scoring involve a "human factor" as is the case in open interviews.

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that the test instruction and the test stimuli do not change at all.

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that it independent from the sample studied. Its scores do not change from sample to sample, as is the case when sample statistics are used to calculate individual test scores like in Guttman-scales, or Rasch-scales, z-transformation scores and scores based on standard deviations in a sample.

- The concept of internal consistency does not apply because the MCT regards consistency information of the response pattern as a sign of a person's moral judgment competence but not as an attribute of the test. That is, inconsistency is not considered as "measurement error" or "unreliability" but as a sign of the participant's "manifest pattern of behavior" (Kohlberg 1984, p. 407; see theoretical background).

- The concept of stability does not apply because the MCT is an instrument to measure developmental change and change due to educational interventions. Such instruments must not be unalterable but sensitive to real changes.

- Hence, the MCT has not been submitted to "item-analysis" to maximize internal consistency or stability which which would have inevitably lowered the validity and the usefulness of the test.

- In spite of the fact that the MCT has not been tuned for classical reliability (of because of this?), Lerkiatbundit et al. (2006) report a reliability coefficient for the MCT of r = 0.90 ... more.


For what age groups can the MCT be used?

The MCT has been used with particvipants of age 8 on upward, if the participant has average reading and comprehension capabilities. For younger children or for children and adolescents with educational disadvantages, the MCT can and should be modified. This is especially necessary when the participants are not completely proficient in the language of the test, and when the participants lack sufficient education.

These modifications can be made without diminishing the validity of the MCT:

- Use larger print
- Use shorter response scales (-2 to +2 instead of -4 to +4)
- Simplify the language of the dilemma story (but do not touch the arguments/reasons)
- Apply the MCT in small groups and have someone to assist the participants when they have difficulties to understand a certain expression (but do not suggest an answer, of course)
- Offer post-test discussion of the MCT.


Fake news on the MCT

  • "The MCT (formerly known as the Moral Judgment Test) is a 28-item, self-report measure ..."
  • Soure: Gay, J. G. et al. (2018). Relations among psychopathy, moral competence, and moral intuitions in student and community samples. Legal and Criminological Psychology, p. 6. DOI:10.1111/lcrp.12128.

Comment: The MCT is a behavioral test of moral competence but not a "self-report measure," as the authors falsely state. It measures how able the participants are to rate arguments pro and contra some decisions in regard to the arguments' moral qualiy instead of their opnion agreement (Lind 2016). A self-report measure is a test which requires the participants to describe their own moral competence. It is a pitty that scientists do not understand the difference. Moreover, the MCT does not measure "moral judgment" but moral competence.

  • "Almost all existing objective scorable instruments for measuring moral development are also based on the idea of a series of hierarchically ordered, qualitatively different steps: ... the MCT (Lind, 2000)...".
  • Source: Boom, J. (2009, p. 8). Measuring moral development: Stages as markers along a Latent Development (chapter 8). Manuscript (personal communication).

Comment: The MCT is objective but is not on Kohlberg's Stage theory (see Lind 2019). Some core postulates of Kohlberg's Stage model of moral development have been empirically refuted: Stages do not form structural wholes but all form of moral reasoning can be found in people on all Stages (Keller 1992). Moreover, moral competence has been shown to regress when it cannot be used for a longer time (Lind 2002; Hemmerling 2014).

  • "Response methods [including MCT] are not as accurate a measure of individual moral stage." Haste, H. et al. (1998, p. 325): Morality, wisdom and the life-span. In: A. Demetriou, W. Doise & C.F.M. van Lieshout, eds., Life-span developmental psychology, pp. 317-350. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Comment: All measurement instruments are "response methods": The participant respond to the questions of the researcher.

  • "Stages cannot be assessed [with the MCT]." Oser, F. & Althof, W. (1992, p. 176): Moralische Selbstbestimmung. Modelle der Entwicklung und Erziehung im Wertebereich. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.

Comment: The MCT does not assess moral stages because Kohlbergian Stages have not shown to exist empirically (LInd 1989).

  • "As measure of moral judgment competence, the modal stage [of preference] was calculated for each of the two dilemmas [of the MCT..." Beck, K. (1993, p. 102): Dimensionen der ökonomischen Bildung. Meßinstrumente und Befunde. Nürnberg Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Lehrstuhl fuer Wirtschaftspädagogik. Unpublished manuscript.

Comment: The MCT measures moral competence through its C-score or C-index, not through calculating a score for moral preferences.

  • "Outcomes from [the MCT] would overestimate moral competence" Beck, K. et al. (2002, p. 112): Autonomy in heterogeneity? Development of moral judgment behavior during business education. In: K. Beck, ed., Teaching-learning processes in vocational education, pp. 87-119. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Comment: Actually, of all measures, which claim to measure moral competence, the MCT produces the lowest scores, because it is the only one which poses a difficult task to the respondent.


  • "Although the measurement of moral developmental stage [with the MCT] lacks validity. ... [The correlation between the scores of each dilemma -- it is not specified which one -- is only r = ] 0.10. ... This inconsistency is the lower the higher the level of education." [my transl. GL] Herrmann, D. (2000, pp. 13-14): Religiöse Werte, Moral und Kriminalität. In: J. Allmendinger, ed., Gute Gesellschaft? Verhandlungen des 30. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Köln 2000, Teil B, pp. 802-822. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Comment: The MCT does not claim to measure stages, so it cannot lack validity in that respect. It is not clear which scores the author has calculated, hence we cannot know what the r = 0.10 means. Moreover, the correlation between subtests is not considered as an index of validity in methodological literature, and such correlations depend strongly on the variance of the scores in a given sample, and on the moral judgment competence of the participants. None of these factors has been considered by this author.


  • "Eine Individualdiagnose des Entwicklungsstandes der moralischen Urteilskompetenz läßt sich anhand dieses Instruments kaum vornehmen. Einerseits, weil die durch eine Varianzkomponentenzerlegung ermittelten Werte eine Stufenbeschreibung nicht ermöglichen; andererseits, weil sich wegen der fehlenden Altersdifferenzierung ... eine Ermittlung des Entwicklungsstands der präfererierten Wertperspektiven nahezu erübrigt." My translation: "We cannot use this test for individual diagnosis of the developmental status of moral judgment competence. On one hand, because the [C-score] does not allow the definition of the Stage; on the other hand because the development of moral preferences is meaningless because of the lack of correlation with age." Schmied, D. (1981, p. 61): Standardisierte Fragebogen zur Erfassung des Entwicklungsstandes der moralischen Urteilskompetenz. Diagnostica 27, 51-65.

Comment: (a) The MCT has not been designed for individual diagnosis or selection purposes but for research and program evaluation. (b) Sincde the MCT's inception 1977, hundreds of studies have been done which show that the MCT is a valid measure of moral judgment competence. (c) However, one must not, as the authors seems to do, confuse moral competence with moral preferences. (d) Indeed, moral preferences or orientations do not correlate with age because they do hardly differ among people. (d) Moral competence does not correlate consistently with age, because it is not a function of biological maturation but of high quality education (LInd 2002; 2016).


  • "The Defining Issues Test (DIT) by James Rest has been adapted in German as the Moral Competence Test (MCT), formerly named Moral Judgment Test (MJT) ..." (several authors)

Comment: This is wrong. THe MJT (now called MCT) measures moral competence whereas the DIT measurea the preference for principled moral thinking. A particular feature of the MCT is that it contains a difficult task, namely the task to rate arguments not by their opinion agreement but by their moral quality. Rest rejects the use of counter-arguments to the participants because he thought of them as being "artificial." (Rest 1979, p. 89: Development in judging moral issues. Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press.) He writes: "The artificiality of the [con] statement interfered with its usefulness in studying modes of reasoning. For the most part, information from these statement was useless and had to be eliminated from the analysis." (p. 89) see also above.


  • Tests like the MCT "require high reading ability of the participants. They can be applied in people not younger than 12 years of age. For younger subjects and for adolescents with reading problems, the must not be used." (my transl. GL) Krettenauer, T. & Becker, G. (2001, p. 189): Entwicklungsniveaus sozio-moralischen Denkens.Diagnostica, 47, 188-195.

Comment: Actually, these fears are not supported by empirical evidence. The MCT has been applied with children as young as 8 years of age. For participants with reading problems, the test administrator may give help in understanding certain words. Moreover, since the MCT is no speed-test and participants can take as much time as they need, reading problems do not seem to affect the test scores.


  • "The cognitive dimension results from the weighting of six statements according to their acceptability.; the affective dimension results from the 'modal preference value' (Oser/Althof, 2001, p. 176, my translation GL). The stage is inferred through a intra-individual measurement of consistency." (Source: Sterba-Philipp 2003, p. 22: Dilemma-Geschichten zur Förderung moralischer Urteilsfähigkeit einer Förder- und Hauptschulklasse einer Schule für Körperbehinderte. (1.11.2004)

Comment: (a) The "cognitive dimension" of the MCT does NOT result from weighting the acceptability of six statements (which six should that be?], nor does the affective dimension of the MCT result from calculating "modal preferences". Actually, the cognitive aspect of moral judgment behavior, i.e., moral judgment competence, is calculated through an intra-individual analysis of variance components; and the affective aspect is indexed by the average preference of the six moral orientations as defined by Kohlberg. (b) The MCT has not been designed to measure Kohlbergian Stages because its underlying dual-aspect theory is not compatible with the stage theory.

  • "... von den 44 Protokollen nach den von Lind (1977) angegebenen Kriterien nur 21 auswertbar waren. ... In neun von 21 Protokollen [ergaben sich] theoretisch nur schwierig begründbare Ergebnisse, weil entsprechend der Auswertung vom Vor- zum Nachtest Stufenübersprünge und -regressionen von zwei bis fünf Stufen vorkamen. ... Andere Forscher (HINDER, in Vorb.) berichten von denselben Problemen mit dem MUT." Translation: "... of 44 protocols [filled out tests] only 21 were scorable according to the criteria given by Lind (1977). ... In nine of 21 protocols findings resulted which could hardly be justified by theory, because they showed stage-skipping and stage-regressions of two to five stages between pretest and posttest. ... Other researchers found report similar problems with the MCT (Hinder, in preparation)". Schlaefli (1986, p. 166): Förderung der sozial-moralischen Kompetenz: Evaluation, Curriculum und Durchführung von Interventionsstudien. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Comment: No other researcher has ever reported similar "findings", though the MCT has been in use since 1977 in hundreds of studies with thousands of subjects. In no other study has anything like this been found. In most studies not a single unscorable protocol has been found. If unscorable protocols were found, they were only a very few. Online interviews are always complete because the program reminds the participant if he or she skips an item. Only a very few data sets were not scorable. These authors report also "stage-skipping" and "stage-regression". Because the MCT does not measure Stages at all, it is unclear which test these authors have used.

  • "After finishing his analysis, the author [of this study] became aware of the fact that in studies with the MCT the return rate [of filled out questionnaire] usually was 50%." (my translation, GL) Mieg, H.A. (1994, p. 208): Verantwortung. Moralische Motivation und die Bewältigung sozialer Komplexität. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Comments: (a) A return rate of 50% is unusually high for a survey study. Only in our first survey with the MCT, the return rate was higher (70%). Typically, return rates of survey studies tend to be much lower. (b) The MCT seems to keep the return rates high. Many respondents tell us that answering the MCT is much more interesting than answering many of the other scales which we included in our test batteries.

  • "Lind has changed the MCT several times..." Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997, footnote 5): Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.

Comment: Actually, since 1977 the MCT has shown to be so valid and fruitful for research. So it needed no changes but only minor corrections. In contrast, the Defining Issues Test by Rest et al. underwent a major revision of the test content and several major revisions of the scoring system (from P-score to P-2 score, N-score and U-score), which makes it hard to compare DIT-findings over various generations of research.

  • "The studies that specifically are lacking in MCT research are (a) studies of 'moral experts' like philosophers or political scientists. (b) Relating Lind's measure of moral competence to some other psychological test of moral comprehension or moral competence. (c) Longitudinal studies that contain some way of characterizing 'enrichted' or 'stimulating' life experiences other than education. (d) Detailed reports and replications of moral education programs, with control groups. (e) Studies linking moral judgment with behavioral measures (going beyond the moral judgment test itself)." Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997, footnote 8): Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.

Comment: This critique mirrors a lack of reading of research literature. See compiled references on this web-site. In detail: (a) Several renown moral experts were involved in constructing the MCT through stage-rating its items. (b) The MCT is the only true measure of moral competence; how could it be compared with other such tests? (c) The MCT as used in a longitudinal study of university students in five different countries; no other test has been used in a similar way. In this and on other studies stimulating life experiences (like opportunities for responsibility-taking and guided reflection) were assessed in many life areas outside the syllabus (Lind, 2000; 2019; Schillinger, 2006; Lupus, 2009; Saeidi 2011). There are no other studies which did such comprehensive assessment of the learning environment. In DIT studies mostly characteristics of the learner was assessed, and only few characteristics of his or her environment. (d) Many moral education programs have been evaluated with the MCT, including pretests, posttests, follow-up studies, and control groups, and, of course, detailed reports have been given (see, e.g., Lind, 2002 and more here). (e) In contrast to most, if not all, other tests of moral development, the MCT is itself an experimental test of behavior. Moreover, there are several studies linking moral judgment competence as measured with the MCT to the ability to behave morally in other settings (see here). Finally, it has been shown in two experiments that the MCT's C-score cannot be faked upward like DIT's P-score (see Emler et al 1983).

  • "Durch dieses Vermeiden 'moralischer' Reizworte wird [im MKT] versäumt, dem Befragten zu signalisieren, daß nach seinem moralischen Urteil gefragt wird." (p. 343) "Gefahren" bei standardisierten Fragebogen: S. 346 "Unlust, Müdigkeit und Meinungslosigkeit, individueller Antworthabitus und Präferenz für sozial erwünschte Reaktionen beeinflussen potentiell die Gültigkeit aller durch standardisierte Verfahren erhobenen Einstellungsdaten. Dennoch würde man ihretwegen keineswegs auf die ungeheuren pragmatischen Vorzüge von Standardisierungen verzichten." (p. 346) "Opinion-Agreement" (läßt sich aber kontrollieren oder nutzen, meint G.N.-W.) und "Tiefstapeln... wenn "Abwehrmechanismen" wirken oder "Scheu vor hehren Worten" besteht. (p. 347) "Kreatitivät" (mehrere Handlungsoptionen) des Antwortenden wird unterdrückt. (das ist irrelevant für die Moraleinstufung!) (p. 354) "Willkürliches ankreuzen: ... lange Ankreuz-Sequenzen ermüden oder langweilen ihn schnell; komplizierte Sätze können seine Lesefertigkeit oder sein Verständnis überfordern... Willkürlich gesetzte Kreuze sind natürlich bei der Auswertung standardisierter Erhebungen nicht als solche zu erkennen. (p. 344) "Response-Set: ... acquiescence... Nun lassen sich solche verzerrenden Antwortmuster u.U. durch statistische Verfahren herausfiltern... [aber] die Gültigkeit der bereinigten Daten scheint... problematisiert, da der Schnitt zwischen [den response-set und dem MU] ja nicht theoretisch begründet, sondern aufgrund des statistischen Konstrukts eines 'Normal-Antworthabitus' vorgenommen werden kann." (p. 345) "Social Desirability: ... daß Ankreuzungen schlicht als Ausdruck der Zustimmung oder Ablehnung des propositionellen Gehalts einer vorgelegten Aussage gewertet werden können.... positive Bild von sich selbst machen. [Im offen Interview bestehe die Gefahr nicht, da die Moraleinstufung] ausschließlich nach der Struktur der Begründungen vorgenommen wird. Und Argumentationsstrukturen lassen sich nun einmal nicht 'hochstilisieren'." (p. 345)
  • Summary: The author rejects all recognition tests of moral development for these reasons: (a) Lack of interest, tiredness, lack of opinion, response set, and preference for socially desired answers the validity of attitudes which are assessed through standardized tests." (p. 343) and these biases "cannot be discovered in the analysis of such standardized test" (p. 345).
  • Source: Nunner-Winkler, G. (1978). Probleme bei der Messung des moralischen Urteils mit standardisierten Verfahren. In: L. Eckensberger, ed., Entwicklung des moralischen Urteilens, pp. 337-358. Saarbrücken: Universitätsdruck.

Comment: Nunner-Winkler does not understand the MCT. (a) The MCT has been constructed to measure moral competence, not moral attitudes. Many biases which the author counts as possible threats to validity apply only to attitude tests. The measurement of competencies can be biased by different threats (see above). (b) Yet, these biases can be detected. There are three very rigorous criteria for checking on the validity of MCT data, which allow us to detect most severe biases in the data.

  • "Nach vorliegendenn Untersuchungen wären bei einem Einsatz derartiger Instrumente bei unserer Erwachsenenstichprobe außerdem wahrscheinlich ceiling-Effekte aufgetreten, d.h. die meisten Befragten hätten ... postkonventionelle Argumente präferiert. Unterschiede ihrer moralischen Urteilsfähigkeit wären dann also wenig in Erscheinung getreten." Translation: "According to existing studies, we expected ceiling-effects in our sample of adults, that is, most respondents would have preferred postconventional arguments. Difference in moral judgment competence would have not appeared therefore."
  • Source: Spang, W. & Lempert, W. (1989, p. 19): Analyse moralischer Argumentationen (Textteil). Berlin Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung.

Comment: Contrary to the authors' expectation, all studies show that people's moral competence is very low, mostly in the range of a C-score between 0 and 30 (of 100 possible points). Moral competence is something different from the preference for certain types of moral reasoning. Therefore, a high preference for postconventional moral reasoning does not prove a high moral competence.


How it began

In 1975, I started to think about ways to assess the competence aspect of moral and democratic behavior. Being trained as an experimentally minded psychologist and educational researcher, I had learned that morality and democracy belong to the "affective" domain of human behavior, not to the "cognitive" or competence domain, which was exclusively occupied by so important things like mathematics and languages. So, at that time, it seemed pretty revolutionary to speak of competencies in connection with morality and democracy or even to try to think about ways to measure it, had it not been for Piaget and Kohlberg who did not trust this superficial separation of affect and cognition.

Initially, I conceptualized the Moral Competence Test* as a more economic alternative to Kohlberg's laborious interview technique, then it turned out that it can produce unique information about moral thinking and behavior which we could not obtain before. I developed the MCT on the basis of ideas which I took from philosophers (e.g., Habermas, Apel), psychologists (Piaget's notion of affective-cognitive parallelism, Kohlberg's definition of moral judgment competence, G. A. Kelly' personal construct theory, H.H. Kelley's idea of subjective variance analysis) and cognitive test theorists (Torgerson's concept of response scaling, N. Anderson's cognitive algebra; Guttman's facet analysis). The idea was not only to measure human attitudes and behaviors but to asses the cognitive structures that underlie it. We cannot open up the brain and look insight it, but we can study these cognitive structures by observing a person's reaction patter to carefully designed stimuli pattern. As a multi-factorially designed N=1 experiment, the MCT does exactly this. The MCT, we could say, is a low-tec and low-budget predecessor of brain scanning. Meanwhile we can say that the efforts invested into its construction and validation has paid well.

For two years, we had submitted the initial versions of the MCT to an intensive validation process, including a) an expert rating of the arguments by Roland Wakenhut, Thomas Krämer-Badoni, Gertrud Nunner-Winkler, Rainer Döbert, Tino Bargel, Barbara Dippelhofer-Stiem and others), b) a loud-responding to a pre-version of the MCT by about ten students to check on the test's affective quality (yes, all respondents did show emotional reactions), and c) several rather large empirical validation studies which let us check on the construct validity of the MCT: preference hierarchy, affective-cognitive parallelism, quasi-simplex structure of the stage inter-correlations, and non-fakeability of the C-score. This very extensive and rigorous validation process was made possible because the MCT was used in the international longitudinal study on university education (project "Hochsschulsozialisation") generously financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as part of the Sonderforschungsbereich 23.

In 1977, I felt that the MCT was as valid as it can be (Lind 1978). This version of 1977 is still in use with only very minor corrections.

In meanwhile, the MCT has been applied to several hundred thousands of subjects and 25 new language versions of the MCT have been constructed, rigorously validated and certified. Work on three more versions is in progress. For guidelines please see the link below. Other tests have been developed borrowing its basic design idea: the Moral Judgment Questionnaire by Roland Wakenhut for studies of military personnel, the "Moralisches Urteil-Praeferenz-Test" (MUP) by Ralf Briechle to study high school students, the UKT by Hinder, a moral vingette questionnaire by Juan LaLlave, and the MCT-extended version by Patricia Bataglia.

The MCT is a rich source for scientific discovery. Some examples: At the outset, the MCT allowed us to study empirically Piaget's hypothesis of affective-cognitive parallelism, Kohlberg's postulate of quasi-simplex structure and Rest's notion of stage preference hierarchy. The findings were so clearly positive that we now use these three concepts as validation criteria for new test versions. Only recently, we (re-)discovered the phenomenon of moral segmentation with this instrument. For two decades, we had no reason to believe that the two MCT-dilemmas elicited very much the same kind and degree of moral judgment competence (we found, as expected, some slight differences, namely that the C-score was somewhat higher and stage 6 somewhat more preferred in the mercy-killing dilemma than in the workers dilemma). In the late nineties, studies by Cristina Moreno, Susana Patino, Patricia Bataglia and others in Latin American countries found that this segmentation is related to a special kind of religiosity in these countries. Several studies (by Bernd Kietzig, Iuliana Lupu, Soudabeh Saeidi) are under way to test and further explore this hypothesis. In 1995, a study by Herberich (1996) confirmed Norm Sprinthall's theory that opportunities for responsibility-taking and guided reflection would be important ingredients of an effective learning environment: Students with such opportunities showed higher moral competence. In some fields of studies like medicine, where such opportunities are scarce, we found longitudinal regression of the C-score, corroborated by Klaus Helkama's longitudinal interview-study in Finland and Slovackova's MCT study in the Czech Republic. Marcia Schillinger has explored these findings in more depth in a comparative study of the learning environments of medical, business and psychology education in Germany and Brazil.

More and more the MCT shows its strength also in program evaluation. It has played a key role in evaluating and continuously improving the method of dilemma discussion over the past 20 years. The fact that we see now effect sizes of r = 0.70 and higher in our intervention studies owes much to the MCT. Our findings in Konstanz have been confirmed in a carefully randomized study by Sanguan Lerkiatbundit and his colleagues in Thailand. In Greece, Katerina Mouratidou also uses the MCT in teaching evaluation with good results. If we would not have an instrument to measure the competence aspect of moral behavior, we would not be able to detect the effects of educational programs aimed at fostering moral competencies. Kohlberg's interview does this to some degree, too. But often it is too laborious for this purpose. Most if not all other instruments deal only with moral preferences. Recently, we created an open-source internet-version of the MCT to be used for educational program evaluation ( ). This helps us to monitor the effectiveness of our teaching in regard to moral-democratic competencies and, of course, also other teaching aims with high quality data at very low costs.

I hope that we can protect the MCT against abuse, misuse or mindless use so that the MCT will not loose its value for research and program evaluation. The MCT was constructed to improve our knowledge about moral behavior and development and to improve our methods and programs for moral and democratic education. The MCT has never been intended to be used as an instrument for differential diagnostics and personnel selection, and has not been constructed for that purpose.

If te MCT would be used for selection and grading of people, it -- like many other tests -- would have long been rendered useless for research and program evaluation. Books would have been published and workshops been setup on how to cheat the MCT.

So please do not publish the MCT in books, articles nor on the Internet (in research reports it is OK). Please refer anybody interested in using the MCT to me. I will not hesitate to give the MCT away for free if it will be used in scientific research or program evaluation by public institutions.

I want to thank all of you who have used the MCT and contributed to the understanding of the C-index. I welcome any response and comment on the MCT.

Georg Lind


(c) 1977-2021 Copyright by Georg Lind

1. The international copyright for all versions of the Moral Competence Test (MCT) and for the design of the MCT and its scoring is owned by Georg Lind. The MCT was formerly called Moral Jugment Test (MJT).

2. The author of a new, certified version of the MCT will be given credit for this and be considered as co-copyright holder for this version. All translations and new subtests are considered "new version".
The copyright and the certificate will be withdrawn if any changes are made to the MCT without validating the changed version and notifying the international copyright holder.

3. Each copy of the MCT should bear in the footer a copyright statement like this:

(c) Copyright by Georg Lind, see

The MCT can be used for free in public institutions for research and teaching. For use of the MCT by private institutions and commercial projects (program evaluation and alike), written permission by the author is required. For more information on the MJT see

The author kindly requests a file with the raw data from all MCT-studies for his archive of MCT studies. Please deliver them in the text format specified here.

See the list of certified MCT versions .

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