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The Perceived Personality of Moral Exemplars

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Contemporary moral psychology and education overemphasise rationality and neglect moral virtues and personality that must be part of a comprehensive understanding of moral functioning. The purpose of this study was to delineate the perceived personality characteristics of moral exemplars using the template of the Five-Factor Model which represents the fundamental dimensions of personality, and to compare that trait description with those for related types of exemplars. Participants were 120 adults from across the lifespan (17-91 years) who provided free-listing descriptions of moral, religious and spiritual exemplars, which were then analysed in terms of the five personality factors. Results revealed meaningful differences in personality attributions across types of exemplars, and indicated that traits reflecting the Conscientiousness and Agreeableness factors were particularly salient for the moral exemplar. Discussion focuses on the value of a re-examination of moral character and virtue, and the need to integrate moral cognition and personality within a realistic model of moral functioning and education.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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