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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An empirical attempt to develop a scale to measure strength of conscience in children of the age range found in grade eight in the Vancouver schools Blank, Stanley Solomon


Historically, moral awareness and conscience have been considered matters for speculation by philosophers and moralists and it is difficult to find many studies that set out explicitly to gather empirical evidence concerning conscience. A few psychologists, however, have attempted to measure these phenomena. These studies can be criticized because the moral categories and questionnaire items used were derived by "armchair" methods rather than by empirical methods. This study was undertaken as an attempt to develop, empirically, a reliable set of conscience items. From these items a scale to measure conscience in children of the age range found in grade eight in Vancouver schools could be constructed. In order to develop a set of conscience items by empirical methods, two tasks were undertaken: 1. To obtain empirical data regarding behavioural situations illustrating instances of moral awareness and conscience. 2. To construct, from these data, items describing these behavioural situations, to administer these items to a sample population and to test these items for reliability. The data were collected by presenting to 200 grade eight students a word list of categories evolved in a previous study. The subjects were asked to write statements, from their own experience, which would illustrate the meaning of each of these words. In this manner 5,440 statements were collected from which were evolved 247 items. These items were checked for understanding by presenting them to a sample drawn from the original population. Two scales were constructed from the original 247 items. Each of the scales was administered to 100 grade eight students and the results analysed. The analysis of the results consisted of testing the answers to the questionnaire items for significant differences in the way in which the subjects answered these items. A limitation of this thesis is that it excludes any reference to the areas of Lust and Sex. This exclusion was a condition set by the Vancouver School Board in granting permission to conduct the study in one of the schools. As a result of the analysis, it was concluded that of the original 247 items, 229 items would lend themselves to a scale which would measure conscience in both boys and girls of the age range found in grade eight in Vancouver. While such a scale is outlined in the present study, the checking of its reliability and. validity is left for future study.

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