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Last revision: Feb. 5th, 2007


Constructing New Dilemmas
for the Moral Competence Test (MCT)



What the MCT does

Why a new dilemma?

Guidelines for developing a new dilemma for the MCT



What the MCT does

The Moral Competence Test (MCT) [formerly called Moral Judgment Test, MJT] has been developed in the 1970s (Lind, 1978; Lind & Wakenhut, 1985) in order to provide a highly valid, standardized test which could be used in research and evaluation studies. After almost 30 years of research conducted all over the world, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the standard MCT has fulfilled the initial expectations (Lind, 2008). In addition, the MCT is particularly suitable for cross-cultural as well as cross-developmental research.

The MCT's special features:

  • The MCT is still one of the few, if not the only, test of the cognitive aspect or competence aspect of moral judgment and behavior. Most other instrument available let us only measure moral attitudes, values, ideals or orientations, that is the affective aspect of people's behavior.

  • The MCT is designed as a multivariate N=1 experiment to assess structural properties of response patterns rather than only single dimensions. Its measurement methodology roots in cognitive psychology (cognitive algebra, personal construct theory, facet analysis) and thus had foreshadowed the research methods of modern cognitive neuroscience (Lind, 1982).

  • The MCT is also very practical; it is one of the shortest instruments with only two dilemmas and 24 items (arguments) to be rated by the participant.

  • The MCT can be used with participants age 10 onwards (given regular school education); a grade school version is being developed (Zierer, 2005).

  • The MCT meets very rigorous validation criteria, which are unprecedented in psychological research (Lind, 2005a). Does the test measure what it is supposed to measure? The answer is clearly: Yes.

  • The standard MCT has been translated and validated for 29 different languages (by Jan. 2007) and thus provides an invaluable source for cross-cultural research (Lind, 2005b).

  • The MCT is available for research and evaluation studies by public institution for free. All others need a written permission by the copyright holder, Dr. Lind or his heirs.

  • The MCT is copyrighted by Dr. Georg Lind. The translated versions are also copyrighted by the localizer of the test. No changes must be done to the standard MCT without written permission by Dr. Lind or his representative.

  • If a new dilemma is written and validated in order to extend the standard version of the MCT, the new dilemma must be developed according to the guidelines given below and validated like the original MCT in order to be certified by the author or his representative. Only if certified, the new dilemma can be published as "certified MCT-extended." It should carry the copyright note. The author of the new dilemma can co-copyright this new dilemma.

  • All certified version of the standard MCT and of extended versions of the MCT are published on the certification page of this web-site. All versions not published on this web-site as certified are not legal.

  • Copyright note: All paper and electronic copies of new MCT-dilemma must show this copyright note:
    (c) 1977 Copyright by Dr. Georg Lind, for certificate see: http://democracy-education.net
    The name of the author of the new dilemma can be added as a co-copyright holder.
    (c) 1977, 2015 Copyright by Dr. Georg Lind, for certificate see: http://democracy-education.net. 200x Co-copyright of the dilemma "xy" by "xxxx xxxxx."


Why new dilemmas?

There can be many reasons for developing a new dilemma, good ones and not so good ones.

It may be a very good idea to develop additional dilemmas (extended versions) for the MCT:

  • It is strongly recommended to supplement the standard MCT by a new dilemma and not to replace any of the two standard dilemmas.

  • Specific research questions may suggest to develop a particular dilemma in order to find a good answer. An example is the research by Bataglia, Schillinger & Lind (2003) on the phenomenon of moral segmentation for which a new dilemma was developed and validated. Only through this new dilemma we could show that many participants who get a low score on the 'mercy-killing'-dilemma are actually able to reason but don't do so if a religious dogma prevents them from making full used of their cognitive capacities.

  • The focus of research or evaluation on particular programs and methods may necessitate the development of a dilemma whose content is related to them. For example, the evaluation of a teaching program in physical education would be more informative if a dilemma is included which deals which a moral dilemma located in physical education (Mouratidou, 2006, personal communication).

In general, it is a bad idea to replace the standard MCT by new dilemmas

  • It is strongly recommended not to replace any of the two standard dilemmas by a new dilemma but to supplement them. .

  • The findings with the standard MCT can be directly compared with a great wealth of studies, even cross-culturally; it would take long for a new version with new dilemmas to gain the same degree of validity and to accumulate the same amount of comparable data.

  • It is rather difficult to find dilemmas which are suited for measuring moral judgment competence as well as the two dilemmas of the standard MCT does. Some dilemmas do not 'pull' the highest levels of moral reasoning capacity but can be 'solved' with little capacity; a scale developed ion the base of such dilemmas would grossly underestimate a person's moral judgment competence. Some dilemmas are so specific that they can be used only with a very limited category of people and may thus restrict research and evaluation to certain cultures, certain age groups or certain professional groups.

  • Often there is no real need for a replacement. Some have alleged that one of the two dilemmas of the standard MCT or both are not suitable in a certain country/culture or for a certain age group of for a certain target population to be studied. So far, in no case could such an allegation be substantiated. The MCT has been well received by very diverse participants. Only very minimal refusals to take the test have occurred so far (as compared with other moral development tests for which as much as 50 percent refusals or unscorable data sets have been reported).


Guidelines for developing a new dilemma for the MCT

A) The dilemma

  • there should be two new dilemmas to make sure that we will have one fully certifiable at the end;

  • should deal with the story of a fictitious person who is very likely to exist in real; s/he should have a name;

  • it should be clear from the beginning that there is a difficulty ahead (title of the story; first sentence)

  • should contain a clear decision under time pressure; an evasion of the decision or postponing it should not be an option.

  • should be short and easily understandable (not too technical language) at least for first semester accountant students (do they already have studied something else or are they high school graduates?) and still demanding enough to arouse interest in well-experienced accountants;

  • should appeal to people with high moral ideals (Kohlbergian Stages 5 and 6), but also to people with lower ideals;

  • should appeal equally to people who agree with the decision of the protagonist as to people who disagree.


B) The arguments

  • should be as short as possible (only one sentence, not too complex), and not too technically worded;

  • should represent each of the Six Kohlbergian Stages as close as possible;

  • should not sound ironical, joking, or in any way depreciating;

  • should match for the Stages (that is, the pro and contra argument on the same stage should be somehow equivalent, yet not contradictory);

  • should not double up the arguments of the standard MCT.

C) The validation process for a new dilemma (MCT extension)

(see also Lind, 1978; Lind, in press; https://moralcompetence.net/ ):

  • Expert rating of the arguments regarding their Stage-representativity;

  • Pre-Pretest with 4 - 5 persons for detecting obvious problems with the dilemma or the arguments;

  • First validation pretest (click here for more information);

  • Validation analysis in regard to the validation criteria for the arguments' semantic and pragmatic equivalence of meaning;

  • A second validation pretest is in turn if there are too large deviations from the criteria (in two thirds of new dilemma developments, a second round was necessary so far);

  • If successful, the new dilemma will be certified by the author or his representative and published on the MCT-web-site.


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