DIT Results for IMPACT Group
The Defining Issues Test (DIT) is an instrument designed to assess one's stage of
moral development. The stages used are based on Kohlberg's approach to morality, which
places individuals into one of the following six stages of moral development:
Stage 1: The morality of obedience: Do what you're told.
Stage 2: The morality of instrumental egoism and simple exchange: Let's
make a deal.
Stage 3: The morality of interpersonal concordance: Be considerate, nice,
and kind: you'll make friends.
Stage 4: The morality of law and duty to the social order: Everyone in
society is obligated to and protected by the law.
Stage 5: The morality of consensus-building procedures: You are obligated
by the arrangements that are agreed to by due process procedures.
Stage 6: The morality of non-arbitrary social cooperation: Morality is
defined by how rational and impartial people would ideally
(Rest, & Narvaez, 1994, p. 5)
The DIT uses a multiple choice format that asks participants to first read a short
moral dilemma. Each item has been assigned to a different stage of moral development,
according to Rest's model, as described below:
Stage 2: represents considerations that focus on the direct advantages to the actor
and on the fairness of simple exchanges of favor for favor.
Stage 3: represents considerations that focus on the good or evil intentions of the
parties, on the party's concern for maintaining friendships and good
relationships, and maintaining approval.
Stage 4: represents considerations that focus on maintaining the existing legal
system, maintaining existing roles and formal organizational structure.
Stage 5A: represents considerations that focus on organizing a society by
appealing to consensus producing procedures (such as abiding by the will of
the people), insisting on due process (giving everyone his day in court), and
safeguarding minimal basic rights.
Stage 5B: represents considerations that focus on organizing social arrangements
and relationships in terms of intuitively appealing ideals (but which may
lack a rationale for gaining general support).
Stage 6: represents considerations that focus on organizing society in terms of
ideals that appeal to a rationale for eliminating arbitrary factors and that
are designed to optimize mutual human welfare.
(Rest, 1993, p.12)
The score that is of most interest, and that which is most frequently referred to in
the DIT research literature, is the P-Score (i.e., the Principled score). This score is "based on
the relative importance that a subject gives to items representing stages 5 and 6, principled
moral thinking" (Rest & Narvaez, 1994, p. 13). This score ranges from 0 to 95 and is
derived from the simple sum of scores from stages 5A, 5B, and 6, which is then converted
to a percentage. A higher score indicates higher moral judgment development. Rest
explains that the P-score "represents the degree to which a person's thinking is like
that of moral philosophers (Rest, 1993, p. 13). An example of a post-conventional (or
stage 5/6) response is, "What values are going to be the basis for governing how people act
towards each other."
The norms established for the DIT are summarized as follows:
20s Junior high school students
30s Senior high school students
40s College students
50s Graduate students (not studying moral thinking) 3 /
60s Graduate students studying moral thinking and moral ) / A eA f
K r , L
The results for the current sample of IMPACT students were based
on the scores
from 25 students who completed a shortened version (3 scenarios versus the full-length
version which includes 6 scenarios) of the DIT. The scale developers report the reliability of the shortened
version to be 5 to 10 points lower than the long form. They further report that the short form correlates with
the long form at about .90 (Rest, 1993).
The mean P-score (post-conventional) for the 25 IMPACT students
(median = 53.33; SD = 19.10; range = 16.57-90). According to norms provided by Rest
(1993), this suggests that these students' level of moral reasoning is equivalent to that of <6,7
graduate students (who are not studying moral reasoning). Ten of the 25 students scored '- %
at or above 60, suggesting the moral development level of graduate students studying
moral reasoning and moral philosophers. The mean for stage 4 (maintains norms) is
23.79 (median = 23.33; SD = 13.39; range = 0-50), and stage 2/3 (personal interest) is
11.40 (median = 10.0; SD = 9.83; range = 0-33.3). The lower scores on stages 2/3 and 4
are expected, as it is believed that one uses fewer of the earlier stages of reasoning as he
or she moves into the higher stages of moral development.
The Utilizer score (U score) assesses the degree to which a person uses concepts
of justice in making moral judgments. This score is derived from the individual's choice
of action and the items he or she ranks as most important. A high score suggests that the
items one selects as important are consistent with his or her choice of action. For
example, if a participant felt that Heinz should steal the drug for his wife, he or she might
also select the consideration, "Whether the law in this case is getting in the way of the most
basic claim of any member of society." This consideration is consistent with the action
selected, thereby elevating the participant's U score. As Rest (1993) explains, "It is inferred
that the person's concepts of justice (exemplified in the DIT items) is driving the advocacy
of a particular course of action. If there is little fit, then the person has a low U score and it
is inferred that the person makes moral decisions on some different basis than concepts of
justice" (p. 13). These scores can range form +1.0 to -1.0. For the IMPACT sample, scores
ranged from -.27 to .76. Only five scores were less than 0, suggesting that most students
used concepts of justice in making their decisions about the dilemmas. Norm data for
comparing the scores to other samples was not available.
A high Antisocial Score (A score) suggests anti-establishment attitudes in an
individual. These individuals may have an understanding of stage 4, but they fault the
existing authorities and the establishment for being hypocritical and inconsistent with its
own rational. Moreover, high scorers often possess a critical view but offer nothing
positive. Only 4 IMPACT students scored above 0 on this scale.
In conclusion, the DIT results for the sample of 25 IMPACT students suggest that
these students are at a higher level of moral development than typical undergraduate
students. The mean score for these students places them at the same level as most
graduate students (who are not studying moral thinking). The results further suggest that
these students use concepts of justice when making moral decisions.
Finally, although it is quite possible that the IMPACT program improved the 4)
students' level of moral reasoning, this conclusion can not be drawn from these results. The
students' level of moral development, as assessed by the DIT, before they began the IMPACT
program is unknown. It is possible that the students who opted to participate in
S the IMPACT program had a higher level of moral development than their college peers
prior to entering the program. Therefore, it would be beneficial in the future to assess the
IMPACT students' DIT scores both at the beginning and the end of the program to
r + examine change over time. It would also be helpful to compare these students' scores (
V,~ (pre- and post-test) to a control group of similar students (e.g., honors students) who do
~ JQSr / not participate in the IMPACT program, in order to further determine whether it is the
program itself creating any change or if the change can be attributed to typical
developmental experiences of honors level college students.
Rest, J. (1993). Guide for the Defining Issues Test: How to use the optical scan
forms and the Center's Scoring Service. (Version 1.3). University of Minnesota.
Rest, J. & Narvaez, D. (1994). Moral development in the professions: Psychology
and applied ethics. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.