An Investigation of the Effects of a Communicative Technique On the Enhancement of Moral Reasoning

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Susan A. Siltanen

Advisor Department

Communication Studies


This study investigated the effects of videotaped self-modeling as a means of increasing the usage of principled moral reasoning, as defined in Kohlberg's theory of moral developement which posits six stages of moral reasoning. Using Rest's Defining Issues Test, the study assessed the percentage of time subjects used Stage 5 and 6 moral reasoning at three testing times: prior to videotaping (T-1), immediately following videotaping (T-2), and after viewing the video self-modeling daily for two weeks (T-3). Specifically, two hypotheses were tested: (H1) Subjects who video self-model post conventional stage moral reasoning will increase their use of that level of reasoning; (H2) Making and repeated viewing of video self-modeling tapes will produce greater changes in moral reasoning than merely making the tapes. Subjects (N = 48) were male and female high school and college students enrolled in the church education programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Data were submitted to a 2 x 2 x 2 analysis of variance with the P Score as the dependent variable, and using T-1 as a covariate. Results indicated no significant difference in P scores between treatment and control groups at any of the testing times, therefore, neither hypothesis was supported. There was an unusually high degree of test-taking inconsistency (measured by M scores) among these subjects, which probably confounded the results. Other methodological issues, including sample size and sample bias may have affected the outcomes. Additional analysis of the data by treatment, class, and sex, revealed significant main effects for sex and significant two-way interactions between sex and class and between sex and treatment. Females, especially college females, appeared to respond to treatment better than males. These findings may not be reliable and need to be verified by further research. The experiment provided no evidence that video self-modeling of principled moral reasoning can generate the predicted results, but further experimentation in the technique is recommended. It is likely that this experiment did not produce sufficient cognitive disequilibrium to result in significant moral development. With a more persuasive message, generated by the subject, and with a viewing task which requires more cognitive participation and produces more disequilibrium, it is possible that moral reasoning could be improved.