UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An empirical investigation into areas of moral awareness and the formulation of principles basic to the construction of a scale to measure conscience Leedham, Lelia Rachel


Historically, moral awareness and conscience have been considered matters for philosophical and psychoanalytical speculation. Psychologists, however, viz. Friedenber, E. Z., and Havighurst, R. J. , (An attempt to measure strength of conscience, J. Personality, 1948, 17, 232-243) and Wack, Dunstan, (A psychological study of conscience, Stud. Psychol. Psychiat. Cathol. Univ. Amer. , 1952, 8, No. 3) have attempted to measure these phenomena. These studies can be criticized because the moral categories used were derived by a priori and deductive methods rather than by empirical, inductive methods. This study was undertaken as an attempt to provide an empirical basis for a scale to measure conscience and moral awareness. A review of the pertinent literature has revealed many problems which require solution but which cannot be adequately studied until an effective research tool has been devised which will enable investigation of a broader range of conscience than has previously been possible. As a step towards providing such a tool, two tasks were undertaken: 1. To describe the principal areas of moral awareness and conscience as reflected in data obtained from various groups of individuals. 2. To draw out the unifying principles therein to be used as a framework for the construction of future scales to measure conscience. So that the data would not be biased by limited populations or by strict definitions, as wide a variety of groups of people as could be obtained was used, and no definition of conscience that might colour the data was provided. Data were collected by asking individuals, chiefly through the use of a mimeographed questionnaire, what makes them feel bad. Groups contributing data included both sexes from rural and urban areas, aged from ten to middle age, and of a variety of occupations. The preponderance of data was contributed by university students. The items collected were scrutinized and like items were grouped under separate categories. The items in each category were then judged for aptness of fit, and similar items were drawn together under a general principle. A wide range of conscience material resulted from this procedure. Altogether, 944 persons contributed 3,952 items in the raw data. These were narrowed down, because of duplications, to 1,555 items. Items from the scales of Friedenberg and Havighurst and of Wack were included. From this number of items emerged 760 general principles under seventy-five categories. In the light of the broad range of conscience material which has emerged in the present study, an analysis of the content of the two previous studies has been made. Weaknesses in their content have become evident, some areas being completely neglected while others are unduly emphasized. It is felt that the general principles which have been derived empirically in this study will be useful as a framework upon which to construct a scale to measure conscience.

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