Non-contextual Moral Dilemmas
Defining Issues Test (DIT)
The Defining Issues Test, or DIT, is a device for activating moral schemas (to the extent that a person has developed them) and for assessing these schemas in terms of importance judgments. The DIT has dilemmas and standard items, and the subject’s task is to rate and rank the items in terms of their moral importance. As the subject encounters an item that makes sense and taps into the subject’s preferred schema, that item is rated and ranked as highly important. Alternatively, when the subject encounters an item that either doesn’t make sense or seems simplistic and unconvincing, the item receives a low rating and is passed over for the next item. The items of the DIT balance “bottom-up” processing (stating just enough of a line of argument to activate a schema) with “top-down” processing (not a full line of argument so that the subject has to “fill in” the meaning from an existing schema). In the DIT, we are interested in knowing which schemas the subject brings to the task. Presumably, those are the "bedrock" schemas that structure and guide the subject’s thinking in decision making beyond the test situation.
Please visit our other pages for more information about the Defining Issues Test: further description of the measure, summary of scores derived from the DIT, indicators of the measure's validity, normative benchmark scores for the DIT, foundational DIT research, previous research using the DIT across disciplines.
Contextual Moral Dilemmas
Intermediate Concepts Measures (ICM)
A new kind of measure has been developed as part of the Intermediate Concept Approach which, unlike DIT, allows bespoke measure development in specific contextual settings. For example, researchers in a law school might want to work with the Center to develop a measure incorporating dilemmas relevant to the law profession to assess ethical aspects of a course of study. However, a growing number of measures are also available ‘off-the-shelf’ for certain populations such as adolescents, dentists or Army officers for example. Unlike DIT, Intermediate Concept Measures, or ICMs, do not directly assess bedrock moral schemas because so called intermediate concepts are located at a level between bedrock moral schemas and specific contextual norms (e.g. professional codes) and are specific to daily life and similar to virtue based concepts such as honesty or courage.
Please visit our other pages for more information about Intermediate Concepts Measures: foundational ICM research and samples of measures.
Development and Usage of ICM
If you are interested in using an existing ICM or in developing an ICM for another context, please contact the Center at (205) 348-4571 or at email@example.com.