What Is Moral Development?

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Moral growth results from moral principles learned mostly from parents and peers (Gross, 2015). According to learning theory, as we grow up and develop moral ideals, we also develop demands that must be met (Peters, 2015). As a result, we are motivated by meeting these apparent requirements. Individuals often acquire behaviors that are either positively or negatively reinforced, according to the concept of reinforcement (Sailer et al., 2013). Police officers typically take an oath of office, which commits them to being just, unbiased, and upholding the law. When some of these police officers enter the force, they betray the public's trust by becoming corrupt. The simple explanation for this kind of behaviour can be drawn from Thorndike’s experiment and Maslow’s study of human behaviour whereby corruption is a key motivator for the satisfaction of perceived needs (Murtonen, Gruber & Lehtinen, 2017). These police officers behave just like the cat in Thorndike’s experiment which was motivated to find food to satisfy its hunger needs.

A further explanation of this behaviour can be drawn from an expansion of Thorndike’s law by B.F. Skinner into what is called the Principle of Reinforcement. This principle illustrates that behaviour can be shaped by means of either positive or negative reinforcement (Sailer et al., 2013). Skinner illustrated that individuals learn behaviours which are rewarded. Whenever we exhibit desired behavior, we are positively rewarded or reinforced. On the other hand, we can also learn through negative reinforcement (Gross, 2015). Additionally, people also learn adaptive behaviours for survival and socialization in a process called operant conditioning. In this case, the police officers learn adaptive behaviours such as corruption in order to survive and satisfy their perceived needs which are not properly met by the low pay they receive (Dimant & Schulte, 2016). In conclusion, corruption exhibited by police officers is mainly a factor of motivation which arises as a result of high rewards for satisfying needs.


Dimant, E., & Schulte, T. (2016). The nature of corruption: An interdisciplinary perspective. German LJ, 17, 53.

Gross, R. (2015). Psychology: The science of mind and behaviour 7th edition. Hodder Education.

Murtonen, M., Gruber, H., & Lehtinen, E. (2017). The return of behaviourist epistemology: A review of learning outcomes studies. Educational Research Review.

Peters, R. S. (2015). Psychology and Ethical Development (Routledge Revivals): A Collection of Articles on Psychological Theories, Ethical Development and Human Understanding. Routledge.

Sailer, M., Hense, J., Mandl, H., & Klevers, M. (2013). Psychological Perspectives on Motivation through Gamification. IxD&A, 19, 28-37.

April 26, 2023

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