A cross-cultural study of the relationships between epistemological beliefs and moral judgment as a psychological foundation for moral educatioin
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Contemporary research has examined relationships between individuals’ epistemological assumptions and their judgments about what is right, fair, and good. However, existing studies primarily have utilized interviews and a questionnaire method with U.S. college students, so less is known about other populations. For this reason, in this dissertation I investigated cultural differences and similarities in the relationships between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning between Korean and U.S. college students. To accomplish these tasks, the present study utilized a measure of principled moral reasoning (P scores) as the criterion variable. Predictor variables were five epistemological dimensions (simple knowledge, certain knowledge, omniscient authority, quick learning, and innate ability), age, education, gender, syllogistic reasoning skill, grade point average, and academic major. Data analyses included correlations and all possible regressions. The results of the present study indicated that both cross-national similarities and differences exist in psychological functioning. With respect to similar results, omniscient authority and grade point average were the strongest predictors of Korean and U.S. college students’ P scores. Also, the analysis revealed that the five epistemological variables explained a substantial proportion of the variance in P scores over and above all other variables. The present study also revealed differences between the two groups. The results revealed that Korean college students who viewed the nature of knowledge as certain produced lower P scores, whereas U.S. students’ beliefs about certain knowledge had no statistically significant correlations with P scores and accounted for little variance in P scores. On the other hand, U.S. college students who endorsed simple knowledge produced lower P scores, whereas Korean students’ beliefs about simple knowledge had no statistically significant correlations with P scores and accounted for little variance. The current research may provide evidence in support of a neo-Kohlbergian model of cognitive/moral development in the debate between cultural psychologists and Kohlbergian psychologists.