A Neo-Kohlbergian Approach: The DIT and Schema Theory

James Rest, Darcia Narvaez, Muriel Bebeau, Stephen Thoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


"Macromorality" concerns the formal structure of society, as defined by institutions, rules, and roles. "Micromorality" concerns the particular face-to-face relations that people have in everyday life. Kohlbergian theories are most useful for issues of macromorality. The Defining Issues Test (DIT) derives from Kohlberg's approach but makes several departures, including defining cognitive structures in terms of schemas instead of stages, reformulating the definition of postconventional moral thinking, and using different research strategies. The validity of the DIT is based on seven criteria (briefly discussed), and hundreds of studies have produced significant trends. Recent research derived from schema theory produces novel phenomena that link our theory of moral schemas more closely with information processing and decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-324
Number of pages34
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Defining Issues Test
  • Kohlberg
  • Moral judgment
  • Moral schema
  • Political attitude and choice


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