Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Tobias Krettenauer

Advisor Role

Doctoral Supervisor


Drawing on work by Carol Dweck, Moral Self-Theory was conceptualized as describing lay views of the moral self-concept as either malleable (incrementalist view) or fixed (entity view) in order to better capture the goal-achievement aspect of morality. To this end, research into the areas of implicit theories of intelligence and personality were drawn upon to explore the possibility that lay views of morality could help inform our understanding of moral behaviour. Three studies were designed to: 1) examine individuals’ perceptions of their moral self-concept over time for evidence of change and assess participants’ opinions towards that change, as well as any change that may occur in the future; 2) investigate broad correlational relationships between lay perceptions of the malleability of the moral-self and other predictors of moral behaviour, specifically moral identity and moral motivation; 3) examine whether incrementalist beliefs about the moral self-concept could effectively be manipulated, and predict behaviour in an experimental setting. Three studies were conceptualized and carried out, reported here as Chapters 2, 3, and 4. The first study utilized previously collected interview data to determine that participants perceived changes in their moral identity retrospectively, but that there was a group of participants that did not perceive any change. Additionally, participants were asked their views about changes in their moral identity that may occur in the future. This study provided a clear mandate to pursue the exploration of individual’s views on change in moral self-concept. The second study established a measure for assessing the malleability beliefs of the moral-self, and then proceeded to explore the relationships between these beliefs and other commonly used moral variables in three different age groups. Significant correlations were found between Moral Self-Theory and internalized moral identity, prosocial behaviour, and antisocial behaviour. The third and final study experimentally tested whether Moral Self-Theory could be experimentally manipulated, and if that manipulation would show an effect on observed moral behaviour. While Moral Self-Theory was successfully manipulated towards either an entity or incremental viewpoint, this manipulation did not show any effects on the prosocial or antisocial behavioural measures. The possibility of Moral Self-Theory being more relevant to long-term behavioural dispositions rather than a direct motivator of immediate moral behaviour is discussed, as well as limitations to the current studies and their implications for future research.

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