Moral Competence Test (MCT)*

Moralische Kompetenz Test (MKT)
Test del Compencia Moral (TCM)

© The logos MCT / MKT / TCM / MCT / MUT / TMJ are copyrighted by Dr. Georg Lind.
Please do not pass on the test but refer interested parties to the author.

Last revision: June 2016
(c) Copyright by Georg Lind

References on, and founding, the MCT

The Konstanzer Methode der Dilemma-Diskussion (KMDD)


The first article on the MCT (MUT) has been published in 1978: Lind (1978)

The most recent publication are Lind (2008) and Lind (2015 / 2016)

A simplified version of the MCT for eight year olds and upward is now available in German ... more.


Prof. Lawrence Kohlberg, Ph.D., Center for moral education, Harvard University:

"[...] The methodology of Lind and his colleagues gets preference scores and content (pro and con), as well as a stage [structure]. Since preference is determined by both content and structure, a scoring algorithm can be arrived at for assigning a pure stage structure score for an individual. Some subjects are more consistent in preferring stage structure than content, factor considered in the tests of Lind and his colleagues ... I believe this to be a highly promising approach." (in: Lind et al., 2010, p. xvii).
Comment: While for Kohlberg 'stage' and 'structure' were synonyms, Lind adheres only to the notion of structure but has given up the notion of stages.

Prof. Peter H. Rossi, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Social and Demographic Research Institute:

"I was delighted to ... learn of your EQ method [he refers to my method of "Experimental Questionnaires" on which the MCT is based, GL]. Your method has a lot more theory behind it than we have put behind the idea of the Factorial Survey and, with your permission, I would borrow some of your ideas." (personal communication).

Prof. Michael Gross, Ph.D., Department of International Relations, University of Haifa, Israel:

"The [MCT] produces two sets of scores in an effort to distinquish between the affective and cognitive aspects of moral judgment, that is, between the moral preferences which one has and the ability to use them consistently. In this way the MCT offers a significant improvement over the single score interview technique which conflates these two elements." (p. 248) more

Prof. Dr. Manfred Schmitt, University of Trier, Department of Psychology:

"The advantages of an experimental questionnaire (...) make the MCT attractive and, in my opinion, superior to the DIT." (p. 12; my translation, GL) more

Prof. Dr. Horst Heidrink, University Hagen, Department of Psychology:

"The large size of the Vst [validity coefficient] in both studies can be interpreted as a clear support for the MCT, and also for the validity of Kohlberg's theory." (p. 91; my translation) more

For these and other references using and founding the MCT see more

* The MCT has formerly been called Moral Judgment Test, MJT (German: MUT). It has been renamed in order to allign its name better with its measurement object: moral competence. Besides this it can measure also moral orientations. It does not measure articulated ethical principles and moral reasoning.


General definition of moral competence:

The ability to resolve problems and conflicts on the basis of moral principles through deliberation and discussion instead of violence, deceit, and force.

Operational definition (MCT):

The MCT measure the ability to rate arguments by their moral quality rather than other criteria like opinion-agreement.

  • "Dear user..." ... more

  • Before you use the MCT ... more

  • Frequently asked questions ... more

  • False use of the MCT ... more

  • List of certified versions of the MCT ... more

  • Validation and certification procedure ... more

  • Scoring ... more (restricted access)

  • Corrections of the MCT ... more

  • References: Studies and reviews on Lind's Dual-Aspect Theory and the MCT ... more

  • Meaning and measurement of moral judgment competence (Lind, 2016) ...faksimile (password = kohlberg)

  • Constructing new dilemmas for the MCT ... more

  • MCT online (ask the author for details)

  • Cultural fairness of the MCT (Lind, 1995) ... pdf | Cross-cultural validity of the MCT (Lind, 2003) ... pdf

  • How it began ... more

  • False news on the MCT ... more

  • Copyright statement ... more

Dear user,

thank you for your interest in the Moral Competence Test (MCT, formerly known as Moral Judgment Test, MJT). 

I will be happy to send you the MCT or a link for downloading it on your request. Please let me have a few information on your institutional affiliation and research question.

As a researcher or teacher in a public institution you can use the MCT freely without fees. If you use it commercially, you need a written permission by me.

Please note that the test is short but it requires some preparation.

To prevent abuse, please do not publish or pass on the test and the password but refer people interested in the MCT to me. If you use the MCT for a dissertation study and your reviewer requires to document the MCT, you may not include it into your dissertation (which you will publish) but provide it as an attachment for your reviewer only.

If you create your own copy of the MCT on paper or online, please place a copyright note. The copyright note must be placed on each page:"MCT (c) by Georg Lind, see ".
If you use it on-line, please take it off the internet after your study is finished.

The MCT must not be changed in any way without my advice. Changes, if well-intended, may impede its validity. If changed, the test needs to undergo a thorough re-validation study  and to be re-certified (if the validation is positive).

Using and interpreting the MCT requires proficiency in the Dual Aspect Theory of moral behavior and in experimental psychology. See also:

Lind, G. (2016). How to teachmorality. Berlin: Logos.

Lind, G. (2008). The meaning and measurement of moral judgment competence revisited - A dual-aspect model. In: D. Fasko & W. Willis, Eds., Contemporary Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives on Moral Development and Education. Cresskill. NJ: Hampton Press, pp. 185 - 220. (Password = kohlberg)

There is not one morality but two, namely moral orientation (i.e., preference for principled reasoning) and moral competence. The test's name has been changed from Moral Judgment Test to "Moral Competence Test", MCT. "Moral judgment" means an ephemeral behavior, not a enduring disposition like moral competence.

The MCT allows you to assess these two aspects of moral judgment behavior simultaneously. The MCT breaks new grounds in measurement methodology. While almost all other tests measure only moral orientation or some mixture of both aspects, it is the only test that provides a distinct index of moral competence. Its main index for moral competences, the C-score, is an experimentally designed functional measure. Unlike tests based on classical test theory and item response theory, the MCT has not been submitted to empiricist item-selection. but has been rigorously validated using theory-based criteria. Conventional empiricist criteria of test analysis ("test reliability", "test consistency") do not apply. Even though, Lerkiatbundit et al. (2006) report a test-retest correlation of r = 0.90.

More advise for research design, instruction for the participants (especially when re-tested) and reporting MCT findings, as well as about possible errors of interpreting MCT findings are listed and explained below.

For empirical and theoretical studies related to moral judgment competence, including studies with economists and business administrators, visit this site:

Moral competence can be very effectively fostered with the Konstanzer Methode der Dilemma-Diskussion (KMDD).
If you are also interested in learning how to foster moral and democratic competence, please see:

For information and registration at workshop-seminars, see: .

I invite you to present your research and experience with the MCT and the KMDD at our annual international symposium on "Moral-democratic competence" in Konstanz in July:
If you do studies with the MCT, I would appreciate very much if you could let me have your raw data for my MCT data base after you have used them.

Best wishes


(Last revision: June 24, 2014)


Before you use the MCT

Before you use the MCT, you should have some basic understanding of moral psychology and should make yourself acquainted with the theory behind the MCT. Otherwise you may risk to misinterpret your findings ... more

If you have specific questions, you can consult the section "Frequently Asked Questions" below for a quick answer.

Before you start planing your research or self-evaluation study, you may be interested to read my advice, which is based an over 30 years of research and evaluation in the field of moral psychology and education especially with the MCT:

  • It is important to be aware of biasing factors in MCT research in order to draw correct conclusions from your findings. Below I will discuss factors which can bias C-scores upward and factors which can bias them downward. The question, whether these factors should be considered either as "measurement error" or as substantial influences which need to be discussed, cannot be answered once for ever. You, the researcher must decide what the best interpretation is, and must defend this with good reasons. Whatsoever: Always keep your analysis fully transparent for the reader!
  • The MCT is a competence test. Like all tests of competence, ability, proficiency etc., the MCT cannot be faked upward (Wasel, 1994; Lind, 2002), but a person's moral competence score (C-score) can be below his or her real competende because of some depressing circumstances. Many of these circumstances causing biases of measurement are listed below.
  • The strongest biasing factor is fear and anxiety, which can depress the C-score. Therefore, do not make the MCT look like a high stakes school test which produces fear and anxiety (unless you have chosen to study these factors more closely). Fear can be created by the instruction to give the "right" answers, or by implict sigmals like placing the MCT behind a high stakes mental test, letting a feared authority for the participants administer the test or be mentioned as director of the research; having the participants place their names on the questionnaire; etc. The MCT must only be used anonymously!
  • The MCT contains a difficult task for most participants! Only when participants are confronted with a really difficult task can we observe and measure his or her competence. A test without a difficult task can never let us measure competence. Hence, it is quite natural that some participants complain about the difficulty of the MCT.
  • Instruction for participants:
    • Make the instructions as short as possible, and as long as necessary. Avoid words which the participants do not understand or may mis-understand. E.g., "moral" is such a potential confuser. Say, for example: "This questionnaire contains two stories in which people have to solve a conflict. What do you say about their solution, and about the arguments that people have given on these stories?"
    • If you want your participants to fill out the MCT more than one time (e.g., if you want to use it for measuring the effect size of an intervention), you must make the participants aware of this, otherwise they might feel irritated and get lower C-scores: "This questionnaire contains again the two stories in which people have to solve a conflict. We are interested to see how your answer have changed. What do you say about their solution, and about the arguments that people have given on these stories?"
  • Aministering the MCT: If you cannot control the conditions in which the MCT is administered, you should at least make sure that they are always the same for all your participants, and that you know how the test was administered, so you can document this in your research report. Only this way you can be sure that the C-scores reflect differences between the participants' moral competence and not differences between the conditions of test-taking. Good documentation of the test-taking situation helps to make valid inferences from comparing MCT-findings across studies with different test-taking conditions.
  • Never delete data, at least not before you have documented and analyzed them! It can happen that some participants do not fill out the MCT completely or show pattern of responses which appear to be invalid to you. Deleting these data must be considered a breach of scientific standards, and also a waste. Some of the incomplete data can be used for analysis. If not more than two answers are left out, you can substitute them by the individual mean value (please count these cases and include this count into your research report) and include them in your analysis. If you have many cases you should do some analyses with and without these cases, seeing how this might change your central findings. Cases with more than two missing data in the standard MCT should not be included in your analysis but you should inform your reader about this in your research report.
  • Again: Never delete cases whose response pattern appear invalid to you! By throwing away such data you create a bias because you are likely to throw away data which indicate low moral competence. Deleting these data increase artificially the mean C-score.
  • The MCT has been very thoroughly validated over a period of 40 years (Lind, 2016). Yet it is far from being perfect. In some circumstances it may not function as it should. Then you should insist on critical discussion and revision of the test. However, be sure that unexpected results are really artefacts, rather than some new phenomenon which should be studied in its own rights. "Segmentation" is such a phenomenon through which we became aware of the depressing impact of various kinds of authority and fear on moral judgment competence. Instead of changing the MCT in order to rid segmentation, we dicided to let the MCT unchanged in order to measure segmentation. Possibly, for the observation of certain types of authority and fear, we need to develop new dilemmas.
  • When you analyze your data, remember that mean scores are sufficiently reliable only when they are based on the data of 15 or more individuals. This is true if you are interested only in substantial differences of 5 points and more. If you are interested into smaller differences, you should increase the number of individuals used for calculating the mean C-scores. The exact determination of numbers must be left to future publications. For now it suffices to say: take more individuals if you want to be on the safe side.
  • Follow the conventions for the graphical display of findings as closely as possible in order to allow the reader to make quick comparisions between similar studies and their findings, and to prevent false impressions, even if the data are correctly depcited. If the Y-axis is stretched too much even the smallest differences appear to be meaningfull. Here are the most important conventions:
    • C-score on Y-axis: If the (mean) C-score is shown as dependent variable on the Y-axis of a graph as the vertical dimension, the Y-axis should range from "0" to "40" (of course, if higher scores are to be reported, the Y-axis should be made longer). Most statistical programs allow you to set this range manually.
    • Mean acceptance on Y-axis: If the (mean) acceptance score for the six moral orientations are given, the y-axis should range at least from "-2" to "+2", or even better from "-4" to "+4". If sum scores are used, the y-axis should range from "-8" to "+8".
    • Digits: In the graphs, the numbers should always be shown with only one digit behind the decimal comma (or point). More digits fake a higher accuracy that is available, and they blur the picture.
    • Effect size reporting: The concept of "statistical significance" is often mis-used and is not very informative for telling us about the real significance of differences and correlations. Their main drawback is that their value depends very much a) an sample size, and b) on the variance of the measures in the sample. Both things can vary very much between studies and thus make them incomarable, and both can be influenced by the researcher. Unfortunately, many journals and reviewers still ask for it. So you'd better report "statistical significance." But you should also report (and discuss!) relative and absslute affect sizes. Relative effect sizes [rES] like "r" and "d" are now also required by scientific associations like APA and AERA. Good statistics textbooks show how to convert significance statistics into r and d (I prefer r, but reporting both seems a good policy). Because rES still depends on the variance of the data, it is also not optimal. Better is absolute effect size [aES] which depends only on the absolute differences between means, i.e., means of prestest and posttest measurement of the scores of (experimental) interventions group and of comparison groups. For more information and for calculating formulas for aES, see Lind (2010).
  • If you have also suggestions for improving MCT research, please send me a note.

Corrections of the MCT

1976 - The Moral Competence Test (MCT / MJT) has been first published und used 1976.

1977 - Some minor revisions of the arguments have been made on the basis of an empirical study with high school graduates ("Abiturienten-Befragung"). This 1977 version of the MCT is the standard version. This revision improved the validity of the test. Since then, a few linguistic changes have been made which do not affect the validity of the test (see below).

2001 - The response scale text has been changed from "Completely acceptable" and "Completely unacceptable" to "I strongly accept" and "I strongly reject." This is to make sure that "acceptance" means an action of the participant, and not a property of an argument.

2006 - Dr. Klaus Zierer developed a grade-school version of the MCT (3r to 4th grade). This version consists of a new story (only one story). It is not directly comparable with the standard MCT.

2008 - Christine Naegele worked on a text simplification of the MCT (German master version), yet did not complete it. Meanwhile we found out that the standard version also works well with 8 - 11 year olds if small changes are made:

  • Larger fonts.
  • Shorter response scale (-2 to +2) instead of -4 to +4.
  • Assistance is given with difficult words (but, of course, not with answering).

2009 - Change from “The doctor complied with the wish of the woman.” to: “The doctor decided to give her an overdose of morphine”. Because we cannot know whether the doctor “complied” or whether he did it for another reason.

2012 - Some wording of the English version of the MCT has been improved without touching words with a moral connotation. This revision was proposed and carried out by Vitaliy Troyakov, M.A., Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, with approval by Dr. Lind.

2013 - German version: Replacement of “dass” (that) by “weil” (because) in the workers story (suggestion by Konstanze Schillinger, 10 years old). It makes reading easier.

2014 - In the English version, in item #15 the word "ignore" was missing, as George Reeves Stevens has rightly pointed out to me. Thanks, George! The downloadable English version has been corrected accordingly. (Amazingly hundreds administered it, and thousands filled it out, without noticing the ommission.)
The correct wording of item #15 is:

"because the doctor had to act according to his conscience and what he believed was right. The woman's pain made it right for the doctor to ignore his moral obligation to preserve life." (Doctor's dilemma, pro, first argument)

2014 - Change of name from Moral Judgment Test (MJT) to Moral Competence Test (MCT)

False Use of the MCT

  • The MCT does not measure Kohlbergian Stages of moral development.

Kohlberg's Stage scores (and the derived scores Moral Maturity Scoresa, MMS, WAS) are a confounded measure of moral orientations and moral competence. The indicate the highest stage a participants uses consistently in the Moral Judgment Interview (Colby, Kohlberg et al., 1987).

The MCT has been constructed for measuring moral orientations and moral competence in a clearly distinct but insparable way. That is, it produces two types of score: a score for moral competence (C-score) and scores for six moral orientations (average agreement with the arguments representing a certain type of moral reasoning, modelled after Kohlberg's definition of the moral orientations that identify his six Stages. Both types of scores are logically indepentend.

  • Dilemmas must not be ommitted, replace, or added.

If a dilemma is ommitted, or replaced, from the MCT, or if new dilemmas are added, the new test's validity is unknown. The new test must not be called anymore "MCT". The new test must be given a new name. The reader must be informed if parts of the original MCT are used, and that the resulting scores cannot be compared with the standardf MCT's C-score.

  • MCT's arguments must not be changed without re-validation and re-certification of the test.

If changes of an argument of the MCT seem necessary, please inform the author. The revised test must be newly submitted to a validation study and be re-certified.

If in a research report the C-index is not reported, the reader of should be informed about this ommission.

  • The MCT must not be used for individual diagnosis or for selection and grading purposes.

This is considered as a serious abuse of the MCT. The MCT has not been constructed and validated for these purposes. Moreover, the use of the MCT for selecting or grading people provokes attempts to falsify and fake the MCT, which diminishes the test's value for research and program evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does the MCT measure? ... more

  • For what age groups can the MCT be used? ... more

  • "Can that be?" List for checking possible sources of error ... more

  • The MCT is too difficult for my participants ... more

  • What is the psychological and methodological background of the MCT? ... more

  • Is the MCT a 'preference' test? ... more

  • Is the MCT similar to the DIT? ... more

  • Can I calculate a Stage score from the MCT data? ... more

  • Can one apply the rationale behind the C-score to any test? ... more

  • Applying the MCT to participants with little or low education ..more

  • Where can I get a copy of the MCT and different language versions? ... more

  • Can the MCT be Used for High-Stakes Testing and Diagnostics? ... more

  • Can we interpret an individual's MCT data? ... more

  • What is the standard version and standard administration & instruction of the MCT ? ... more

  • Can I construct a new dilemma myself? ... more

  • How do I have to prepare the raw data to get them scored? ... more

  • How can we reduce test-taking fatigue in follow-up studies? ... more

  • How can one protect privacy in follow-up studies ...more

  • Why do you call the MCT a "N=1 experiment" or Experimental Questionnaire? ... more

  • How do I have to prepare the raw data for getting them scored by you?... more

  • How can I check the my scoring for errors ... more [My scoring error corrected ...more]

  • Missing data: What if a participant has not fillied out all 26 question of the standard MCT? ... more

  • Is the MCT valid? ... more

  • Is the MCT reliable? ... more

  • More FAQs ... more

What does the MCT measure?

The MCT measures two aspects of judgment behavior, a) moral judgment competence as defined by Kohlberg (1964; see also Lind, 2006; 2008), and b) moral orientations or moral preferences as defined by Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Orientation. In contrast to the Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Interview, the MCT measures both basic aspects, the cognitive and the affective, simultaneously but independently, and thus does not give a mixed Stage score .
The MCT is the only test which provides measures for these two aspects. While there are many tests of moral preferences or attitudes, it is one of the few, if not the only, measurement instrument which contains a real moral task for the participant. The task is to listen to and evaluated moral arguments about a moral dilemma, especially arguments which oppose his or her stance of the dilemma.
For nearly all participants this is a difficult, if not very difficult task. Only a very few respondents get a maximum score of one hundred; even most university graduates get a score below 45.


What is the psychological and methodological background of the MCT?

The MCT rests on Lind's Dual-Aspect Theory of moral judgment behavior (see Lind, 2002; 2016), which borrows one of its two central psychological concepts -- the concept of cognition and affect being two inseparable, but distinguishable aspects (rather than two separable components or substances) -- from Spinoza, Piaget, and Kohlberg (though Kohlberg's writing seems to fluctuate between an one-component (= one substance) point of view on the one hand and a multiple component point of view on the other). The other psychological concept, the concept of moral judgment competence is taken directly from Kohlberg (1964), who defines this as "the capacity to make decisions and judgments which are moral (i.e., based on internal principles) and to act in accordance with such judgments" (p. 425). Interestingly, Darwin already has talked about "moral competencies" (see above). Yet only Kohlberg has attempted to measure it, trespassing the border between the cognitive and the affective domain, a border erected by many psychological theorists (e.g., Bloom et al., 1956; Rest & Narvaez, 1995).

The methodology of the MCT, the concept of Experimental Questionnaire (Lind, 1980; 2006, 2016), has a cognitive science background, rooting in N. Anderson's concept of cognitive algebra, G. A. Kelly's personal construct Theory, W.S. Torgerson's concept of response-stimulus scaling, L. Guttman's measurement as structural theory, and L. Kohlberg's postulate of moral competencies or structure as manifest pattern of behavior (1984, p. 407).

  • Bloom, B.S., Engelhart, M.D., Hill, W.H., Furst, E.J. & Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.
  • Kohlberg, L. (1964). Development of moral character and moral ideology. In: M. L. Hoffman & L.W. Hoffman, Eds., Review of Child Development Research, Vol. I,, pp. 381-431 New York Russel Sage Foundation.
  • Kohlberg, L. (1984). The meaning and measurement of moral judgment. In L. Kohlberg
    Essays on moral development, Vol. II, The psychology of moral development, pp. 395-425 San Francisco, CA Harper & Row (Original 1981).
  • Rest, J.R. & Narvaez, D. (1995). The four components of acting morally. In: W. Kurtines & J. Gewirtz, eds., Moral behavior and moral development: An introduction, pp. New York: McGraw Hill.


Is the MCT a preference test?

No, the MCT is a competence test. Psychologists basically distinguish two kinds of psychological dispositions which they measure: competencies (or abilities or cognitive structures) on one hand and attitudes (inclinations, motivations, values) on the other. The most distinctive feature of these two kinds of psychological measures is whether or not the measures produced with the test can be simulated "upward." Clearly, competence measure cannot be faked upward, but attitudes measures can.
Some authors make the distinction between 'preference' and 'production' tests related to the response mode (closed versus open questionnaire). They call the MCT a "preference" test because the participant is asked whether s/he would accept or reject (=prefer or not prefer) a series of arguments, in contrast to Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Interview in which the participant is to elicit ("produce") his/her moral philosophical orientations while discussing the solution of certain moral dilemmas.
But this distinction is not as important as they seem to believe. It characterizes only the response mode but not the nature of the target disposition which is to be measured (e.g., competence or attitude). There are many scholastic aptitude tests which are closed (the correct answer has to be "preferred") which nobody would call a preference test.
Similarly, there are attitude tests which which use an open format. The only difficulty they have for the interviewee is to articulate their preferences in their own words. Because moral measurement is not testing linguistic ability, the scoring procedure for an production test must make sure that it is not biased toward higher linguistic skills by some means. Kohlberg's scoring system does so by various means, amongst other by the so-called "upper-stage inclusion rule" (Colby et al., 1987, p. 177; for a critical discussion see Lind, 1989).

Colby, A., Kohlberg, L., Abrahami, A., Gibbs, J., Higgins, A., & ... (1987). The measurement of moral judgment. Volume I, Theoretical foundations and research validation. New York Columbia University Press.


Is the MCT similar to the Defining-Issues-Test, DIT?

No, not at all, although some textbooks say so.

The MCT is different from most other instrument in the domain of moral psychology because it is a moral competence test (see above), though the MCT allows one to assess simultaneously six moral orientations (attitudes, preferences) of the participants. In contrast to most, if not all other tests of moral development, the MCT contains a moral task, namely the task for the participants to apply their moral orientations consistently regardless of the opinion-agreement of the arguments to be rated. The design of the test is experimental, three-factorial, with pro and contra arguments balanced.

In contrast, the Defining-Issues-Test (DIT) by Dr. James Rest measures only the preference for post-conventional moral reasoning: "The P score of the DIT provides a percent score that indicates the amount of post-conventional thinking (in contrast to other kinds of thinking) preferred by the participant." (Narvaez, 1998, S. 15). The DIT contains no moral task. The DIT's P-score does not let one assess the preference for low-stage moral orientations.

Both tests have been compared and contrasted in validation and in intervention studies, e.g., by Schmitt (1982), Lind (1996a, b), Ishida (2006) and Kim (2006).

A narrower comparison of the two scoring techniques (P-score versus C-score) only for the DIT has been made by Rest et al. (1997). Because the DIT does not contain a moral task and is not designed as a multi-factorial, N=1 experiment like the MCT, the use of the C-score is not warranted.

Narvaez, D. (1998). The influence of moral schemas on the reconstruction of moral narratives in eighth graders and college students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 13-24.

Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997). Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.


Can I calculate a Kohlbergian Stage score from MCT data?

No, because the Kohlbergian Stages are based on a single-aspect model while the MCT is based on a dual-aspect model of moral behavior (cf. Lind, 2016). With Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Interview, a persons gets assigned the highest out of six "Stages" a) if he or she prefers the moral orientations typical for this stage more or equally often as all other Stage orientations, and b) if she or her does so with a certain consistency. (This is tested in an open interview situation in which the interviewer discussion moral dilemmas with the interviewee.) In other words, Stage scoring tries to combine affective and cognitive aspects into one single score.
In contrast, we decided to construct the MCT to let us measure both aspects independently though with the very same test (see above).
In early publications I suggested an algorithm for a Stage score for the MCT. However, because the Stage theory of moral development has lost grounds, and is now replaced by a more multifaceted theory of continuous developmental process which allows also for regression of moral competencies (Lind, 1985a; Lind, 1985b; Lind, 2016) there is no need anymore for such a combined score.


Can one apply the rationale behind the C-score to any test?

No. An attitude test cannot be turned into a competence test by a special kind of scoring but only through the definition and operationalization of some (difficult) moral task. The C-score (or Competence score) is meaningful only if it is calculated for a moral competence test (see above). When calculated for a moral preference test like the DIT, C means only some kind of cross-situational consistency of moral preferences but not competence (Lind, 1996)..


Where can I get a copy of the MCT? Where can I get a specific language version of the MCT?

The original German version of the MCT ("Moralisches Urteil Test", MUT) and validated foreign language versions can be obtained from the author. Contact:

In your request, please explain briefly your institutional affiliation and the purpose of the use of the MCT.

The MCT can be used freely by members of public institution of education and research if not used commercially. For all others, written permission by the author(s) must be obtained.


Can the MCT be used for high-stakes testing and diagnostics?

No. The MCT has been designed to answer important research questions like "What fosters moral judgment competence?" "How relevant is moral judgment competence for other kinds of behavior like cheating, helping, learning or decision-making?" And it has been designed for evaluating programs of moral and character education. (see Lind, 2002; 2016) ... more.
The MCT has not been designed for, and must not be used for, selecting or sanctioning people or groups of people ("high stakes testing"). The latter use would clearly be an instance of misuse ... more.

Can we interpret an individual's MCT data?

"Why do you stress that MCT it is not meant to provide information about individuals? Is it because there are reasons involving the construction of calculation or are there any other issues involved?"

A person's moral judgment competence is only one among several factors influencing his/her judgment behavior in a particular situation like the MCT: fatigue, attitude toward the test and the test administrator, associations created by the particular dilemma, time pressure etc. may case the indicator for moral judgment competence (C-score) to decrease more or less. So we could err considerably if we take the C-score of an individual as the "true score" and judge him/her accordingly.
However, if we use the average score of several people (N>10) as a basis for making inferences, the MCT is a valid instrument for evaluating educational interventions or to test theoretical propositions. If we look at the mean C-score of several people who have something in common (like having participated in a dilemma discussion), we can assume that most of the other factors influencing an individual's judgment behavior are similar or cancel each other so that we can safely infer, for example, the impact of a treatment from comparing mean C-scores.
Remember, it is not the data which are valid or not valid but the use we make of them (cf. Messick, S., 1995, Validity of psychological assessment. Validation of inferences from persons' responses and performances as scientific inquiry into score meaning. American Psychologist, 50, 741-749).

My advice: never even look a an individual C-score. Inadvertently, you will make a false judgment on the person who filled out the MCT.

What is the standards version of the MCT and what is the standard administration and instruction of the test?

The standard version of the MCT consists of two dilemmas (Doctor's Dilemma [mercy killing], and Workers' Dilemma [Breaking into a firm]) constructed in its present form in 1977, and then only slightly modified for stylistic reasons. The standard version and the certified foreign language versions have been rigorously validated, and used in many studies around the world including some 300.000 participants.
If an uncertified modified version of the MCT is used, this must be noted in the publication to caution the reader.

The standard administration is this:
- No speed test (only when the response times are extremely long, the participant may be encouraged to make up his/her mind).
- Instruction: "Please read the following stories, in which people have to make a decision, and decide whether the person's decision was right or wrong. Then rate the arguments following the stories whether you accept or reject them."
- Instruction for follow-up survey: "Next you will find the same task as in the first survey. Please respond to it as sincerely as you did the first time, so one can see how your answer have changed. ...[continue as above].

"Can that be?" List of checks for possible sources of error in interpreting C-score data.

  • Problem with data processing

    • Mistakes with putting the data into the computer: check each questionnaire for errors.

    • Interchange of the two dilemma-stories when gathering the filled out questionnaires or when keying in the data into the computer.

    • Wrong naming of the variables, that is In numerical order [w_p_1, w_p_2, w_p_3,...] instead of the real (random) order of the variables of the MCT (W_P_1, W_P_4, W_P_3, W_P_6, ...)

    • Manual sorting of the raw data is very error prone and, therefore, should never be done.

    • Mistakes in the scoring program: test your scoring script with known data, e.g. with these data:

  • Problems with instruction  which can lower the C-score

    • Was the test-administrator well-trained? Did someone say that he did not like such tests during the test-administration?

    • Did you mention to the participants that the survey was to collect data for your thesis? (People are usually not inclined to work for your career as an unpaid aid.)

    • Test-taking fatigue: Repeated use of the standard MCT has not been explained to the participants: Did you explain to them that you give them the same questions because you want to see whether and how their answers change? (Yes, should be the answer here.)

  • Problems with circumstances of questionnaire-taking which have been found to lower the C-score

    • Time pressure: Were the participants instructed to make quick answers? Had the participants meet a deadline or schedule?

    • Testing fatigue: Has the MCT been part of a larger questionnaire and has it been given after many other questions?

    • Testing anxiety: Has the MCT been perceived as a kind of (ethical) knowledge test or ethical intelligence test?

    • Cross-over effects from other parts of the questionnaire:

      • A preceding speed-test (for assessing IQ or specific abilities) may "prime" the participant to also view the MCT as speed task. Solution: present the MCT first.

      • If the MCT is embedded in a questionnaire that has no obvious relationship to it, the participants may show bewilderment and develop negative feelings toward the MCT. Solution: Alert the participant to this change of topics; rarely an explanation is needed.

  • If there is not technical explanation for low C-scores, your results may indicate severe problems of the learning environment
    • Low ethical standards of recruitment to this profession: The profession serves only to make money

    • Few or no opportunities for responsibility-taking through out high school and study

    • Emphasis solely on learning by rote

    • Traditional ethics teaching: learning many ethical concepts and theories

  • Other possible causes of low C-scores:
    • Administration of the test on the door-step (by commercial interviewers) (know cause)
    • Payment for taking the test can lower text-taking motivation (suspected cause)

    • Self-constructed, non-certified version of the MCT: Did you use the standard MCT?

    • Wrong translation: Did you use a certified version of the standard MCT?

If you wish you can send me your raw data for checking the validity of your data. See: [A service fee may apply. Please inquire.]

If none of the technical explanation for low C-scores cited above apply, your results may indicate severe problems of the tested curriculum:

  • Few or no opportunities for responsibility-taking through out high school and study

  • Emphasis solely on rote learning

  • Traditional ethics teaching: only ethical concepts and theories

  • No practical training of moral and democratic competence (see: the Konstanz Method of Dilemma-Discussion... more)


Can I construct a new dilemma myself?

The construction of new dilemmas is encouragedbut very difficult. Please note that the standard MCT is applicable in most cases even though it may lack "face validity" in a particular context.

If you want to construct a new dilemma for the MCT, please read the guidelines.

After construction you can get your new dilemma certified (see certification procedure) in order to label it "certified MCT-extended." New dilemmas without a certificate should not carry the label "MCT" or "MCT-extended."

The criteria for validating new dilemmas for the MCT are as rigorous as for the standard MCT, to ensure that the new dilemma measures moral judgment competence. In order to get a new dilemma certified, the raw data of the validation study must be sent to the author.

The MCT is too difficult for my participants. I want to construct a new test with an easier topic ...

Dear Georg

... Results are not very promising, I honestly think that the test was too dificult for them. I'm also not entirely satisfied with the translation. I've read that Kohlberg had a story about some little girl so it might be better to develop a test with a subject more interesting to them and closer to their age.



Dear Vanja,
I hope you do not mind if I comment on your thoughts.
I do not think that the test should be changed just because the scores were low. Would you change the meter-stick because the things which you measured were shorter than you expected?
Or do you have a specific hypotheses, e.g., that the stories are not adequate for your sample? We chose the stories to "pull" the highest possible level of moral competence. If you use "easier" stories (like Kohlberg's girl story), you may even get lower C-scores because such stories do not require the highest level of moral competence for solving the conflict. I have not heard from any of the many studies in which the MCT was used that participants complaint about the two stories as boring. On the contrary, many reported that even young children were quite interested in the stories. Why should that be different in your sample? Did the participants say so?
We made several attempts to construct new "dilemmas" -- with no success. Their validity was always very low so that we had to give up. Moreover, if you make a new measure (which is very time consuming and expensive) you cannot compare your findings with the  the existing studies.
By the way, the average C-score of your sample was within the range which I would expect. If it was "too difficult", the scores would have been lower.

Yes, the MCT is a difficult test because it is a competence test: For most people it is a very big challenge to deal with counter-arguments, especially if the democratic culture is not developed high yet. If people are very religious, the C-sores are generally very low. See the research by Iuliana Lupu (2009) about Romanian students, by Soudabeh Saeidi (2011) about Iranian students, and by Abdul Wahab Liaquat (2012) about Pakistanian students. In these countries religion plays a big role and the moral competence is low: . Could this be the case in your country, too?
Best regards, Georg

How can we protect privacy in follow-up studies?

To protect privacy, we use a special code instead of the names of the participants. The code consists of the house number (last two digits, e.g., 05), the day of birth (e.g., 24, when the birthday is Oct. 24), the first two letters of mother's first name and the first two letters of father's name or, if the father is not known, grandfather's first name.

How can we reduce test-taking fatigue?

With repeated measurement, usually the problem is not a learning effect (i.e., artificial elevation of scores due to test knowledge) but fatigue and frustration that lowers the scores. When used for evaluating educational or therapeutic interventions in a pretest-posttest design, some subjects may respond with test-taking fatigue or frustration because of the fact that the test is administered twice within a rather short period of time (a few weeks or months apart). Such reactions often lead to lower C-scores and an underestimation of intervention or therapy effects.

According to our experience, this problem can be solved through proper instruction ... more

How do I have to prepare the raw data to get them scored?

If you use the standard MCT without any modifications in the ordering of the items, a scoring service is available on request for a fee. For this the raw data must be submitted for scoring in this form:
- Ordering of data as in the standard MCT; that is, no manual re-ordering according to item stages; manual re-ordering is more error prone than re-ordering through a scoring program.
- Minimum additional information: Interview ID or consecutive numbering; data of opinion on each dilemma and of all 12 arguments per dilemma. Desirable would also be information on age, gender, and level of education in order to check on the validity of the MCT data
- All data in text-format; TABs as delimiters; first row: names of the variables/columns

Error in older scoring guideline corrected

In an early guideline, the stage code for the third and fourth pro argument in the doctor dilemma was false; it must be corrected as indicated in the table below:

  Doctor Dilemma PRO-Arguments
False Stage Code
Correct Stage Code

MCT-data which have been scored in Konstanz are not affected.


Missing data: What if a participant has not fillied out all 26 questions of the standard MCT?

If you use an online-version of the MCT which checks automatically for missing data and reminds the participant to complete his or her answers, missing data cannot occur.

Otherwise, missing data can be a problem for the scoring of the MCT. In my experience, missing data are usually not made on purpose but are caused by distractions and fatigue. Therefore you should make sure in your instruction of the participants that they do not forget to answer out all questions. Also you should allow for sufficient time for answering the MCT. In some cases missing data can be caused by the wording of the MCT if the participants are very young or have little reading proficiency (you are allowed to explain difficult words to the participant). Note that the wording of arguments must not be changed. A change would require the modified test to be validated and certified again. However, the wording of the story can be carefully modified to enhance readability.

If the questions about the decision of the protagonist is omitted, the C-score can still be calculated. However, omission of these two questions are a problem if you want to calculate scores that involve "opinion agreement."

If only one or two responses to the 24 arguments are missing, we replace missing data by the individual mean score that are calculated on the bases of the other 22 or 23 responses of that participant. This seems to be the most neutral way to replace missing data. (Do not forget to document the number of cases with missing data in your research report.) To make sure that this replacement has no biasing effect, you should run your most central analyses both with and without the modified data and compare the findings.

As a matter of convention, we discard all participants (cases) from analysis who have more than 2 missing data. (Do not forget to mention this in your research report.) Their C-score cannot be validly interpreted. In some instances, it may be interesting to analyze this phenomenon. If it cannot be explained as a technical problem, it may indicate a psychological process which deserves attention.


Is the MCT valid?

Yes, the MCT is highly valid because it has been put to more rigorous validity analysis than most if not all other tests of moral development.

The MCT has been submitted to more rigorous validation process than most psychological measures. The criteria chosen for checking its validity are so demanding that even minor defects of the test would have been detected. These criteria have also proven to be very effective in securing the validity of new dilemmas and the cross-cultural validity of more than thirty foreign language versions of the MCT (see Lind, 2016; certification procedure).

Moreover, it should be noted that the MCT has not been submitted to "item-selection" in order to increase the likelihood of confirming any of the predictions to be tested with the MCT. For example, no items have been omitted or included in order to maximize correlation with age. Thus the MCT is not biased for or against a specific assumption.

Note that validity is not just an attribute of a test but of the whole measurement procedure including its interpretation: "Validity is an integrated evaluative judgment of the degree to which empirical evidence and theoretical rationales support the adequacy and appropriateness of inferences and actions based on test scores or other modes of assessment" (Messick, 1989, p. 13, emphasis added). Hence, the MCT can claim validity only if one administers it according to the standard procedure described above, and if the user has sufficient psychological knowledge about the Dual-Aspect-Theory of moral behavior and development (see above) to be able to interpret MCT scores adequately.

Over the past 30 years the MCT has shown to be very useful for testing theoretical assumptions about moral behavior and development and about the effect size of certain educational programs (Lind, 2005).

Messick, S. (1989). Validity. In R.L. Linn, ed., Educational measurement (3rd ed.), pp. 13-103. New York: Macmillan.


Is the MCT reliable?

Yes, the MCT is highly reliable, not only in the conventional way but also in more meaningful ways, too:

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that neither its administration nor its scoring involve a "human factor" as is the case in open interviews.

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that the test instruction and the test stimuli do not change at all.

- The MCT is reliable in the sense that it independent from the sample studied. Its scores do not change from sample to sample, as is the case when sample statistics are used to calculate individual test scores like in Guttman-scales, or Rasch-scales, z-transformation scores and scores based on standard deviations in a sample.

- The concept of internal consistency does not apply because the MCT regards consistency information of the response pattern as a sign of a person's moral judgment competence but not as an attribute of the test. That is, inconsistency is not considered as "measurement error" or "unreliability" but as a sign of the participant's "manifest pattern of behavior" (Kohlberg, 1984, p. 407; see theoretical background).

- The concept of stability does not apply because the MCT is an instrument to measure developmental change and change due to educational interventions. Such instruments must not be unalterable but sensitive to real changes.

- Hence, the MCT has not been submitted to "item-analysis" to maximize internal consistency or stability which which would have inevitably lowered the validity and the usefulness of the test.

- In spite of the fact that the MCT has not been tuned for classical reliability (of because of this?), Lerkiatbundit et al. (2006) report a reliability coefficient for the MCT of r = 0.90 ... more.

For what age groups can the MCT be used?

The MCT has been used with particvipants of age 8 on upward, if the participant has average reading and comprehension capabilities. For younger children or for children and adolescents with educational disadvantages, the MCT can and should be modified. This is especially necessary when the participants are not completely proficient in the language of the test, and when the participants lack sufficient education.

These modifications can be made without diminishing the validity of the MCT:

- Use larger print
- Use shorter response scales (-2 to +2 instead of -4 to +4)
- Simplify the language of the dilemma story (but do not touch the arguments/reasons)
- Apply the MCT in small groups and have someone to assist the participants when they have difficulties to understand a certain expression (but do not suggest an answer, of course)
- Offer post-test discussion of the MCT.

Please contact Dr. Lind for a simplified version of the MCT in German for these low age groups (8 years of age) or educationally disadvantages participants.

For younger children (grade 2 to 4) there is a one-dilemma children-version available (Juergen's Dilemma, by Dr. Zierer), which is however not fully certified yet. Please write to Dr. Zierer or me.

False news on the MCT

  • "Almost all existing objective scorable instruments for measuring moral development are also based on the idea of a series of hierarchically ordered, qualitatively different steps: ... the MCT (Lind, 2000)...". Boom, J. (2009, p. 8). Measuring moral development: Stages as markers along a Latent Development (chapter 8). Manuscript (personal communication).

Comment: When I survey the research literature on Kohlbergian moral development research, I felt that the Stage model does not agree with experimental data. Its core postulates of qualitative organization, non-regression or invariant sequencing, non-stage-skipping, and hierarchical integration have not shown to be empirically valid. Therefore, I proposed the Dual-Aspect-Theory of moral behavior and constructed, on this basis, a new test, the MCT. For a more recent statement on the dual-aspect theory, see Lind (2016). Hence, the MCT cannot be considered a measure of "moral stages". It is a measure of moral judgment competence.

  • "Response methods [including MCT] are not as accurate a measure of individual moral stage." Haste, H. et al. (1998, p. 325): Morality, wisdom and the life-span. In: A. Demetriou, W. Doise & C.F.M. van Lieshout, eds., Life-span developmental psychology, pp. 317-350. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • "Stages cannot be assessed [with the MCT]." Oser, F. & Althof, W. (1992, p. 176): Moralische Selbstbestimmung. Modelle der Entwicklung und Erziehung im Wertebereich. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.

Comment: The MCT does not claim to measure moral stages because it is built on the assumption that Kohlbergian stages have not shown to exist empirically.

  • "The Defining Issues Test (DIT) by James Rest has been adapted in German as the Moral Judgment Test (MCT) ..." (several authors)

Comment: Both tests are based on totally different psychological and methodological theories and have nothing in common but a common dilemma story. Rest rejected the use of counter-arguments to the participants because he thought of them as being "artificial." Rest (1979, p. 89: Development in judging moral issues. Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press.) writes: "The artificiality of the [con] statement interfered with its usefulness in studying modes of reasoning. For the most part, information from these statement was useless and had to be eliminated from the analysis." (p. 89) The reason for this elimination was that Rest and his colleagues used conventional psychometric theory as a criterion for judging the validity of the items of the DIT. Thus they believe that their psychometric is irrefutable.
In contrast, Lind intended to measure moral judgment competence rather than "modes of moral reasoning" and has built the MCT on the basis of multivariate experimental design, in order to be able test the validity of assumptions underlying the MCT.

  • "As measure of moral judgment competence, the modal stage [of preference] was calculated for each of the two dilemmas [of the MCT..." Beck, K. (1993, p. 102): Dimensionen der ökonomischen Bildung. Meßinstrumente und Befunde. Nürnberg Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Lehrstuhl fuer Wirtschaftspädagogik. Unpublished manuscript.

Comment: The MCT measures moral judgment competence through its C-score or C-index, but not through calculating a score for moral preferences.

  • "Outcomes from [the MCT] would overestimate moral competence" Beck, K. et al. (2002, p. 112): Autonomy in heterogeneity? Development of moral judgment behavior during business education. In: K. Beck, ed., Teaching-learning processes in vocational education, pp. 87-119. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Comment: Actually, of all measures, which claim to measure moral competence, the MCT produces the lowest scores, because it is the only one which poses a difficult task to the respondent.

  • "Although the measurement of moral developmental stage [with the MCT] lacks validity. ... [The correlation between the scores of each dilemma -- it is not specified which one -- is only r = ] 0.10. ... This inconsistency is the lower the higher the level of education." [my transl. GL] Herrmann, D. (2000, pp. 13-14): Religiöse Werte, Moral und Kriminalität. In: J. Allmendinger, ed., Gute Gesellschaft? Verhandlungen des 30. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Köln 2000, Teil B, pp. 802-822. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Comment: The MCT does not claim to measure developmental stages, so it cannot lack validity in that respect. It is not clear which scores the author has calculated, hence we cannot know what the r = 0.10 means. Moreover, the correlation between subtests is not considered as an index of validity in methodological literature, and such correlations depend strongly on the variance of the scores in a given sample, and on the moral judgment competence of the participants. None of these factors has been considered by this author.

  • "Eine Individualdiagnose des Entwicklungsstandes der moralischen Urteilskompetenz läßt sich anhand dieses Instruments kaum vornehmen. Einerseits, weil die durch eine Varianzkomponentenzerlegung ermittelten Werte eine Stufenbeschreibung nicht ermöglichen; andererseits, weil sich wegen der fehlenden Altersdifferenzierung ... eine Ermittlung des Entwicklungsstands der präfererierten Wertperspektiven nahezu erübrigt." My translation: "We cannot use this test for individual diagnosis of the developmental status of moral judgment competence. On one hand, because the [C-score] does not allow the definition of the Stage; on the other hand because the development of moral preferences is meaningless because of the lack of correlation with age." Schmied, D. (1981, p. 61): Standardisierte Fragebogen zur Erfassung des Entwicklungsstandes der moralischen Urteilskompetenz. Diagnostica 27, 51-65.

Comment: (a) No, the MCT has not been designed for individual diagnosis or selection purposes but for research and program evaluation. (b) In the past 35 years, hundreds of studies have been done which show that the MCT is a valid measure of moral judgment competence. (c) However, one must not, as the authors seems to do, confuse moral competence with moral preferences. (d) Indeed, moral preferences or orientations do not correlate with age because they do hardly differ among people. Neither does moral competence correlate consistently with age, because it is not a function of biological maturation but of high quality education.

  • Tests like the MCT "require high reading ability of the participants. They can be applied in people not younger than 12 years of age. For younger subjects and for adolescents with reading problems, the must not be used." (my transl. GL) Krettenauer, T. & Becker, G. (2001, p. 189): Entwicklungsniveaus sozio-moralischen Denkens.Diagnostica, 47, 188-195.

Comment: Actually, these fears are not supported by empirical evidence. The MCT has been applied with children as young as 8 years of age. For participants with reading problems, the test administrator may give help in understanding certain words. Moreover, since the MCT is no speed-test and participants can take as much time as they need, reading problems do not seem to affect the test scores.

  • "Durch die Gewichtung der sechs Aussagen nach Akzeptabilität ergibt sich die kognitive Dimension; die affektive Dimension ergibt aus dem "modalen Präferenzwert" (Oser/ Althof, 2001, 176). Die Stufe wird aus einer"intraindividuellen Konsistenzmessung" (ebd.) ermittelt." Translation: "The cognitive dimension results from the weighting of six statements according to their acceptability.; the affective dimension results from the 'modal preference value' (Oser/Althof, 2001, 176). The stage is inferred through a intra-individual measurement of consistency." Sterba-Philipp, C. (2003, p. 22): Dilemma-Geschichten zur Förderung moralischer Urteilsfähigkeit einer Förder- und Hauptschulklasse einer Schule für Körperbehinderte. (1.11.2004)

Comment: (a) The "cognitive dimension" of the MCT does NOT result from weighting the acceptability of six statements (which six should that be?], nor does the affective dimension of the MCT result from calculating "modal preferences". Actually, the cognitive aspect of moral judgment behavior, namely moral judgment competence, is calculated through an intra-individual analysis of variance components; and the affective aspect is indexed by the average preference of the six moral orientations as defined by Kohlberg. (b) The MCT has not been designed to measure Kohlbergian Stages because its underlying dual-aspect theory is not compatible with the stage theory.

  • "... von den 44 Protokollen nach den von Lind (1977) angegebenen Kriterien nur 21 auswertbar waren. ... In neun von 21 Protokollen [ergaben sich] theoretisch nur schwierig begründbare Ergebnisse, weil entsprechend der Auswertung vom Vor- zum Nachtest Stufenübersprünge und -regressionen von zwei bis fünf Stufen vorkamen. ... Andere Forscher (HINDER, in Vorb.) berichten von denselben Problemen mit dem MUT." Translation: "... of 44 protocols [filled out tests] only 21 were scorable according to the criteria given by Lind (1977). ... In nine of 21 protocols findings resulted which could hardly be justified by theory, because they showed stage-skipping and stage-regressions of two to five stages between pretest and posttest. ... Other researchers found report similar problems with the MCT (Hinder, in preparation)". Schlaefli (1986, p. 166): Förderung der sozial-moralischen Kompetenz: Evaluation, Curriculum und Durchführung von Interventionsstudien. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Comment: (a) This is very unusual. Of the several thousand interviews with the MCT which I have seen, only a very few have been incompletely filled out. Online interviews are always complete because the program reminds the participant if he or she skips an item. Only a very few data sets were not scorable. Schlaefli and Hinder may have not followed the guidelines for applying the MCT. (b) It is unclear how one can observe "stage-skipping" and "stage-regression" with MCT data since the MCT does NOT assess "Stages" nor does we claim that it does so. (c) The report by Schlaefli is unique. Besides him and his colleague Hinder, who worked with the same data, no other researcher has ever reported similar "findings", though the MCT has been in use since 1977 in hundreds of studies with thousands of subjects.

  • "After finishing his analysis, the author [of this study] became aware of the fact that in studies with the MCT the return rate [of filled out questionnaire] usually was 50%." (my translation, GL) Mieg, H.A. (1994, p. 208): Verantwortung. Moralische Motivation und die Bewältigung sozialer Komplexität. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Comment: (a) Even though this author seems to have a complaint, a return rate of 50% is unusually high for a survey study. Only in our first survey with the MCT, the return rate was higher (70%). Typically, return rates of survey studies tend to be much lower. (b) The MCT seems to keep the return rates high. Many respondents tell us that answering the MCT is much more interesting than answering many of the other scales which we included in our test batteries.

  • "Lind has changed the MCT several times..." Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997, footnote 5): Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.

Comment: Actually, since 1977 the MCT has shown to be so valid and fruitful for research that it needed no changes but only minor corrections. In contrast, the Defining Issues Test by Rest et al. underwent a major revision of the test content and several major revisions of the scoring system (from P-score to P-2 score, N-score and U-score), which makes it hard to compare DIT-findings over various generations of research.

  • "The studies that specifically are lacking in MCT research are (a) studies of 'moral experts' like philosophers or political scientists. (b) Relating Lind's measure of moral competence to some other psychological test of moral comprehension or moral competence. (c) Longitudinal studies that contain some way of characterizing 'enrichted' or 'stimulating' life experiences other than education. (d) Detailed reports and replications of moral education programs, with control groups. (e) Studies linking moral judgment with behavioral measures (going beyond the moral judgment test itself)."Rest, J.R., Thoma, S.J., & Edwards, L. (1997, footnote 8): Designing and validating a measure of moral judgment: Stage preferences and stage consistency approaches. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 5-28.

Comment: This critique mirrors a lack of reading of research literature. See compiled references on this web-site. In detail: (a) Several renown moral experst were involved in constructing the MCT through stage-rating its items. (b) The MCT is the only true measure of moral competence; how could it be compared with other such tests? (c) The MCT as used in a longitudinal study of university students in five different countries; no other test has been used in a similar way. In this and on other studies stimulating life experiences (like opportunities for responsibility-taking and guided reflection) were assessed in many life areas outside the syllabus (Lind, 2000; 2016; Schillinger, 2006; Lupus, 2009; Saeidi 2011). There are no other studies which did such comprehensive assessment of the learning environment. In DIT studies mostly characteristics of the learner was assessed, and only few characteristics of his or her environment. (d) Many moral education programs have been evaluated with the MCT, including pretests, posttests, follow-up studies, and control groups, and, of course, detailed reports have been given (see, e.g., Lind, 2002 and more here). (e) In contrast to most, if not all, other tests of moral development, the MCT is itself an experimental test of behavior. Moreover, there are several studies linking moral judgment competence as measured with the MCT to the ability to behave morally in other settings (see here). Finally, it has been shown in two experiments that the MCT's C-score cannot be faked upward like DIT's P-score.

  • "Durch dieses Vermeiden 'moralischer' Reizworte wird [im MKT] versäumt, dem Befragten zu signalisieren, daß nach seinem moralischen Urteil gefragt wird." (p. 343) "Gefahren" bei standardisierten Fragebogen: S. 346 "Unlust, Müdigkeit und Meinungslosigkeit, individueller Antworthabitus und Präferenz für sozial erwünschte Reaktionen beeinflussen potentiell die Gültigkeit aller durch standardisierte Verfahren erhobenen Einstellungsdaten. Dennoch würde man ihretwegen keineswegs auf die ungeheuren pragmatischen Vorzüge von Standardisierungen verzichten." (p. 346) "Opinion-Agreement" (läßt sich aber kontrollieren oder nutzen, meint G.N.-W.) und "Tiefstapeln... wenn "Abwehrmechanismen" wirken oder "Scheu vor hehren Worten" besteht. (p. 347) "Kreatitivät" (mehrere Handlungsoptionen) des Antwortenden wird unterdrückt. (das ist irrelevant für die Moraleinstufung!) (p. 354) "Willkürliches ankreuzen: ... lange Ankreuz-Sequenzen ermüden oder langweilen ihn schnell; komplizierte Sätze können seine Lesefertigkeit oder sein Verständnis überfordern... Willkürlich gesetzte Kreuze sind natürlich bei der Auswertung standardisierter Erhebungen nicht als solche zu erkennen. (p. 344) "Response-Set: ... acquiescence... Nun lassen sich solche verzerrenden Antwortmuster u.U. durch statistische Verfahren herausfiltern... [aber] die Gültigkeit der bereinigten Daten scheint... problematisiert, da der Schnitt zwischen [den response-set und dem MU] ja nicht theoretisch begründet, sondern aufgrund des statistischen Konstrukts eines 'Normal-Antworthabitus' vorgenommen werden kann." (p. 345) "Social Desirability: ... daß Ankreuzungen schlicht als Ausdruck der Zustimmung oder Ablehnung des propositionellen Gehalts einer vorgelegten Aussage gewertet werden können.... positive Bild von sich selbst machen. [Im offen Interview bestehe die Gefahr nicht, da die Moraleinstufung] ausschließlich nach der Struktur der Begründungen vorgenommen wird. Und Argumentationsstrukturen lassen sich nun einmal nicht 'hochstilisieren'." (p. 345)
  • Summary: The author rejects all recognition tests of moral development for these reasons: (a) Lack of interest, tiredness, lack of opinion, response set, and preference for socially desired answers the validity of attitudes which are assessed through standardized tests." (p. 343) and these biases "cannot be discovered in the analysis of such standardized test" (p. 345).
  • Source: Nunner-Winkler, G. (1978). Probleme bei der Messung des moralischen Urteils mit standardisierten Verfahren. In: L. Eckensberger, ed., Entwicklung des moralischen Urteilens, pp. 337-358. Saarbrücken: Universitätsdruck.

Comment: (a) The MCT has been constructed to measure moral competence, not moral attitudes. Many biases which the author counts as possible threats to validity apply only to attitude tests. The measurement of competencies can be biased but by different threats (see above). (b) Yet, these biases can be detected. There are three very rigorous criteria for checking on the validity of MCT data, which allow us to detect most severe biases in the data.

  • " Nach vorliegendenn Untersuchungen wären bei einem Einsatz derartiger Instrumente bei unserer Erwachsenenstichprobe außerdem wahrscheinlich ceiling-Effekte aufgetreten, d.h. die meisten Befragten hätten ... postkonventionelle Argumente präferiert. Unterschiede ihrer moralischen Urteilsfähigkeit wären dann also wenig in Erscheinung getreten." Translation: "According to existing studies, we expected ceiling-effects in our sample of adults, that is, most respondents would have preferred postconventional arguments. Difference in moral judgment competence would have not appeared therefore."
  • Source: Spang, W. & Lempert, W. (1989, p. 19): Analyse moralischer Argumentationen (Textteil). Berlin Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung.

Comment: Moral competence is something completely different from the preference for certain types of moral reasoning. Therefore, a high preference for postconventional moral reasoning does not prove a high moral judgment competence. In fact, all studies on moral judgment competence agree that even adults mostly show rather low moral judgment competence on the MCT.


How it began

In 1975, I started to think about ways to assess the competence aspect of moral and democratic behavior. Being trained as an experimentally minded psychologist and educational researcher, I had learned that morality and democracy belong to the "affective" domain of human behavior, not to the "cognitive" or competence domain, which was exclusively occupied by so important things like mathematics and languages. So, at that time, it seemed pretty revolutionary to speak of competencies in connection with morality and democracy or even to try to think about ways to measure it, had it not been for Piaget and Kohlberg who did not trust this superficial separation of affect and cognition.

Initially, I conceptualized the Moral Competence Test* as a more economic alternative to Kohlberg's laborious interview technique, then it turned out that it can produce unique information about moral thinking and behavior which we could not obtain before. I developed the MCT on the basis of ideas which I took from philosophers (e.g., Habermas, Apel), psychologists (Piaget's notion of affective-cognitive parallelism, Kohlberg's definition of moral judgment competence, G.A. Kelly' personal construct theory, H.H. Kelley's idea of subjective variance analysis) and cognitive test theorists (Torgerson's concept of response scaling, N. Anderson's cognitive algebra; Guttman's facet analysis). The idea was not only to measure human attitudes and behaviors but to asses the cognitive structures that underlie it. We cannot open up the brain and look insight it, but we can study these cognitive structures by observing a person's reaction patter to carefully designed stimuli pattern. As a multi-factorially designed N=1 experiment, the MCT does exactly this. The MCT, we could say, is a low-tec and low-budget predecessor of brain scanning. Meanwhile we can say that the efforts invested into its construction and validation has paid well.

For two years, we had submitted the initial versions of the MCT to an intensive validation process, including a) an expert rating of the arguments by Roland Wakenhut, Thomas Krämer-Badoni, Gertrud Nunner-Winkler, Rainer Döbert, Tino Bargel, Barbara Dippelhofer-Stiem and others), b) a loud-responding to a pre-version of the MCT by about ten students to check on the test's affective quality (yes, all respondents did show emotional reactions), and c) several rather large empirical validation studies which let us check on the construct validity of the MCT: preference hierarchy, affective-cognitive parallelism, quasi-simplex structure of the stage inter-correlations, and non-fakeability of the C-score. This very extensive and rigorous validation process was made possible because the MCT was used in the international longitudinal study on university education (project "Hochsschulsozialisation") generously financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as part of the Sonderforschungsbereich 23.

In 1977, I felt that the MCT was as valid as it can be (Lind 1978). This version of 1977 is still in use with only very minor corrections.

In meanwhile, the MCT has been applied to several hundred thousands of subjects and 25 new language versions of the MCT have been constructed, rigorously validated and certified. Work on three more versions is in progress. For guidelines please see the link below. Other tests have been developed borrowing its basic design idea: the Moral Judgment Questionnaire by Roland Wakenhut for studies of military personnel, the "Moralisches Urteil-Praeferenz-Test" (MUP) by Ralf Briechle to study high school students, the UKT by Hinder, a moral vingette questionnaire by Juan LaLlave, and the MCT-extended version by Patricia Bataglia.

Today (2015), this little two-page-test is still in use in many projects around the world and is still a rich source for scientific discovery. Some examples: At the outset, the MCT allowed us to study empirically Piaget's hypothesis of affective-cognitive parallelism, Kohlberg's postulate of quasi-simplex structure and Rest's notion of stage preference hierarchy. The findings were so clearly positive that we now use these three concepts as validation criteria for new test versions. Only recently, we (re-)discovered the phenomenon of moral segmentation with this instrument. For two decades, we had no reason to believe that the two MCT-dilemmas elicited very much the same kind and degree of moral judgment competence (we found, as expected, some slight differences, namely that the C-score was somewhat higher and stage 6 somewhat more preferred in the mercy-killing dilemma than in the workers dilemma). In the late nineties, studies by Cristina Moreno, Susana Patino, Patricia Bataglia and others in Latin American countries found that this segmentation is related to a special kind of religiosity in these countries. Several studies (by Bernd Kietzig, Iuliana Lupu, Soudabeh Saeidi) are under way to test and further explore this hypothesis. In 1995, a study by Herberich (1996) confirmed Norm Sprinthall's theory that opportunities for responsibility-taking and guided reflection would be important ingredients of an effective learning environment: Students with such opportunities showed higher moral competence. In some fields of studies like medicine, where such opportunities are scarce, we found longitudinal regression of the C-score, corroborated by Klaus Helkama's longitudinal interview-study in Finland and Slovackova's MCT study in the Czech Republic. Marcia Schillinger is presently exploring these findings in more depth in a comparative study of the learning environments of medical, business and psychology education in Germany and Brazil.

More and more the MCT shows its strength also in program evaluation. It has played a key role in evaluating and continuously improving the method of dilemma discussion over the past 20 years. The fact that we see now effect sizes of r = 0.70 and higher in our intervention studies owes much to the MCT. Our findings in Konstanz have been confirmed in a carefully randomized study by Sanguan Lerkiatbundit and his colleagues in Thailand. In Greece, Katerina Mouratidou also uses the MCT in teaching evaluation with good results. If we would not have an instrument to measure the competence aspect of moral behavior, we would not be able to detect the effects of educational programs aimed at fostering moral competencies. Kohlberg's interview does this to some degree, too. But often it is too laborious for this purpose. Most if not all other instruments deal only with moral preferences. Recently, we created an open-source internet-version of the MCT to be used for educational program evaluation ( ). This helps us to monitor the effectiveness of our teaching in regard to moral-democratic competencies and, of course, also other teaching aims with high quality data at very low costs.

I hope that we can protect the MCT against abuse, misuse or mindless use so that the MCT will not loose its value for research and program evaluation. The MCT was constructed to improve our knowledge about moral behavior and development and to improve our methods and programs for moral and democratic education. The MCT has never been intended to be used as an instrument for differential diagnostics and personnel selection, and has not been constructed for that purpose.

If te MCT would be used for selection and grading of people, it -- like many other tests -- would have long been rendered useless for research and program evaluation. Books would have been published and workshops been setup on how to cheat the MCT.

So please do not publish the MCT in books, articles nor on the Internet (in research reports it is OK). Please refer anybody interested in using the MCT to me. I will not hesitate to give the MCT away for free if it will be used in scientific research or program evaluation by public institutions.

Link to validation & certification procedure:

Link to Scoring Guide, Downloadable Publications and Various Language Versions of the Moral Competence Test (MCT):
User-ID = lind-kurs Password = kohlberg

I want to thank all of you who have used the MCT and contributed to the understanding of the C-index. I welcome any response and comment on the MCT.

Georg Lind


(c) 2016 Copyright by Georg Lind

1. The international copyright for all versions of the Moral Competence Test (MCT) and for the design of the MCT and its scoring is owned by Georg Lind. The MCT was formerly called Moral Jugment Test (MJT).

2. The author of a new, certified version of the MCT will be given credit for this and be considered as co-copyright holder for this version. All translations and new subtests are considered "new version".
The copyright and the certificate will be withdrawn if any changes are made to the MCT without validating the changed version and notifying the international copyright holder.

3. Each copy of the MCT should bear in the footer a copyright statement like this:

(c) 1977-2016. Copyright of the MCT by Georg Lind

The MCT can be used for free in public institutions for research and teaching. For use of the MCT by private institutions and commercial projects (program evaluation and alike), written permission by the author is required. For more information on the MJT see

The author kindly requests a file with the raw data from all MCT-studies for his archive of MCT studies. Please deliver them in the text format specified here.

See the list of certified MCT versions .