How People Learn to Think Globally: Mapping and Measuring the Development of Internormative Cognition
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AbstractManaging the global organization of human activity requires the cognitive capacity to generate internormative frameworks of judgment—frameworks that transcend the boundaries between normative communities. This dissertation describes an effort to grasp how individuals develop this capacity. I begin by critically reviewing the various academic subdisciplines that have, in one way or another, investigated the resolution of internormative conflicts. In so doing I find that none has produced a research strategy capable of elucidating the nature, origin, and growth of reasoning in this domain. I contrast the limitations of these approaches with the special capacity of the Piagetian cognitive-structural research paradigm—particularly the philosophic-developmental mode of inquiry pioneered by Lawrence Kohlberg—to generate such discoveries. I note that this method has not previously been used to study this domain, and explain why I believe it cannot be viably preempted in this task by the non-developmentalist approaches currently ascendant in moral psychology. To bring the Kohlbergian strategy up to date, I present a theoretical synthesis incorporating concepts from Dynamic Systems Theory, Skill Theory, and recent advances in cognitive-developmental theory and measurement.
With this as a foundation, I offer an analysis of seventy cognitive-developmental interviews in which subjects were asked to formulate judgments about internormative dilemmas (for example, disagreements as to the suitability of democratic governance for a non-Western country). The product of this analysis is a developmental model (the Internormative Cognition Sequence) mapping the growth of complexity in reasoning about such issues. The model identifies a single core structural principle—cross-system norm legitimation—that simultaneously defines the domain, a philosophical criterion as to what constitutes adequate reasoning in this domain, a psychological theory as to what drives growth, and a methodology for empirically observing this growth. In accordance with this principle, the model describes five empirically identifiable cognitive structures, and a developmental logic that organizes them into an empirically testable sequence. I close by presenting a future program of studies designed to perform such testing and to advance educational and psychometric methodologies in this domain, interweaving this presentation with a meta-methodological reflection on the possibilities and challenges of philosophic-developmental assessment.
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