Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information integration theory suggests that differences in the moral judgments of children and adults is an example of a development process of information integration where younger children employ a unidimensional integration rule, and older children and adults employ multidimensional integration rules. Studies that utilize the information integration approach involve single-episode stories in which two or three levels of intention and consequence story cues are manipulated in a within-subjects factorial design. The present study manipulated two sources of information about the story protagonist, as well as information about his intentions and the consequences. The four variables manipulated were: (a) personal goodness of the story protagonist (good and bad); (b) age of the story protagonist (8 years and 12 years); (c) intentions of the story protagonist (accidental, mischievous, or malicious); and (d) the consequences of the protagonists' actions (no injury, small bruise, or bloody nose). Sixty subjects, (20 third graders, 20 sixth graders, and 20 adults) were each asked to judge the actions of a boy in 36 different stories and make a punishment response on a nine-point scale. Each subject received two randomly ordered replications over two, one hour testing sessions one week apart. Results from the group ANOVA indicated that subjects integrated the four stimulus variables when making moral judgments. There was also a developmental shift in the salience of the different levels of personal goodness, intentions and consequences on the punishment responses of the three age groups. Individual subject analyses revealed a wide range of individual differences in the integration rules used by subjects of each age group. Third graders demonstrated less consistency in the story cues they utilized in making their punishment responses, sixth graders generally focused on consequence information and the majority of adults combined intention and consequence information when making their punishment responses. These findings suggest that even though subjects in all age groups have the capacity to integrate multiple dimensions of information, there is a developmental shift which involves a selective integration process governing how subjects of different ages determine the salience of information when making punishment judgments.