About the DIT
A common assumption in the field of morality, and one with which we disagree, is that reliable information about the inner processes that underlie moral behavior is obtained only by interviewing subjects. Contrary to assuming that interviewing presents a clear window into the moral mind, researchers in cognitive science and social cognition contend that self-reported explanations of one’s own cognitive process have severe limitations. There is now a greater appreciation for the importance of implicit processes and tacit knowledge on human decision making, outside the awareness of the subject and beyond his or her ability to verbally articulate them. The DIT takes a different approach to information collection.
How It Works.
The 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 schemas that structure and guide the subject’s thinking in decision making beyond the test situation.