Moral behavior and the development of verbal regulation

Behav Anal. 1998 Fall;21(2):253-79. doi: 10.1007/BF03391967.


The present paper examines the relationship between the development of moral behavior and the development of verbal regulatory processes. Relational frame theory and the distinctions among pliance, tracking, and augmenting forms of rule governance are applied to the domain of moral behavior and its development, in order to identify the specific social and verbal contingencies that are responsible for an evolving moral repertoire. It is argued that moral behavior is controlled by relational and rule-following repertoires, and that these can be arranged into a rough progression: pliance, tracking, augmenting, social concern for pliance, social concern for tracking, and social concern for augmenting. Congruence with data derived from other research traditions is examined, and applied implications are explored.