Adult moral agency encompasses several distinct capacities. Moral discernment is recognition of right and wrong. Moral responsiveness is the ability to feel moral emotions such as remorse, empathy, and admiration under appropriate conditions. Moral judgment is the ability to weigh conflicting moral claims and make reasoned choices in specific circumstances. Moral action is putting one's convictions into practice. Competing theories of moral development differ in how these capacities are conceptualized, the relative weights assigned them, and how they are studied. These differences generate distinctive educational implications.

The theories discussed in this entry represent two major intellectual traditions: the cognitivist tradition, which focuses on mental representation and evaluation, and the behaviorist tradition, which focuses on moral action and external influences on the agent. Although these research programs ...

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