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The manner in which people think about and justify their behavior. People make decisions about what is or is not the right behavior in a particular situation based on several factors, such as cognitions, social learning, and emotions.
There are various theories that attempt to explain people's behavior based on how they reason morally. Three prominent theories are (1) Piaget's (1932/1965) theory of moral development; (2) Kohlberg's (1973) moral reasoning theory, based on a justice-related theme; and (3) Gilligan's (1977) moral care reasoning.
Piaget approached moral reasoning from a cognitive perspective. After observing children making decisions about moral dilemmas and then justifying their behavior, Piaget determined that children reasoned differently depending on their level of cognitive development.
Kohlberg's theory supports and extends Piaget's focus on cognitive development as ...