Moral decision-making and moral development: Toward an integrative framework

Beverley Garrigan, Anna L.R. Adlam, Peter E. Langdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


How moral decision-making occurs, matures over time and relates to behaviour is complex. To develop a full picture of moral decision-making, moral development and moral behaviour it is necessary to understand: (a) how real-time moral decisions are made (including relevant social and contextual factors), (b) what processes are required to develop to enable mature moral decisions, (c) how these processes develop over time, and (d) how moral decisions relate to behaviour. In this paper, psychological and social neuroscience theories of moral decision-making and development are briefly reviewed, as is the development of relevant component processes. Various component processes and factors are seen as required for moral decision-making and development, yet there is no comprehensive framework incorporating these components into one explanation of how real-time moral decisions are made and mature. In this paper, we integrated these components into a new framework based on social information processing (SIP) theory. Situational factors, and how both cognitive and affective processes guide moral decisions was incorporated into the Social Information Processing-Moral Decision-Making (SIP-MDM) framework, drawing upon theories and findings from developmental psychology and social neuroscience. How this framework goes beyond previous SIP models was outlined, followed by a discussion of how it can explain both real-time moral decisions and moral development. We concluded with how the SIP-MDM framework could be used to guide future research and theory development in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-100
JournalDevelopmental Review
Early online date11 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • Moral decision-making
  • Moral development
  • Moral reasoning
  • Perspective taking
  • Social information processing

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