Every cultural group has its own mores or standards of approved behavior. Certain acts are “right” because they further the welfare of the members of the group, they further are “wrong” because they are detrimental to the welfare of the group. The most important mores are incorporate into laws with specific penalties for breaking them. Other persists as customs, which are as binding as laws, but without specific penalties.
The individual’s intellectual capacities affect his response to the group’s moral standards. The moral behavior of the individual, in turn, is closely related to his adjustment to life, to the judgments others make of him, and to his judgments of himself. In general, the more closely his behavior conforms to the moral standards of the group with which he is identified, the more favorable will be the effects on his personal and social adjustments.
If a child violates the mores of the group, he is excused on the ground the he is too young to understand or to know the mores. However, by the tine he reaches adolescence, he is considered capable of understanding and abiding by the mores, and if he fails to do so he will earn an unfavorable reputation among the group members, make himself vulnerable to punishment or threats of punishment, and develop feelings of guilt. Conformity to the group’s mores, on the other hand, will lead to group approval and personal satisfaction.
The person learns, from his personal experiences, that it is to his advantage to conform standards of behavior set by the group, even though he may not at all times agree with the standards.
Intelligent individuals know that right conduct is simply intelligent conduct- the conduct that gets the best results... They tend to choose the right conduct simply because they see it as the course of action that produces the best consequences. An intelligent child or adult discovers he can get what he wants in life more easily and surely by honesty than by deception.
Development of moral codes No one is born knowing what the cultural group considers right or wrong. This he must learn. Even more important, if he wishes to win group approval, he must be motivated to choose, from different potentials for action, that which will satisfy his own need and at the same time conform to group standards.
Learning what the group approves of is a long and difficult process-a process that depends on the maturation of intellectual capacities, especially the capacities for remembering, associating what one learns with previously learned facts, and weighing the merits against the demerits of the different choices.
Moral development is the process in which the child acquires the values esteemed by his community....acquires a sense of right and wrong in terms of these values, and ... learns to regulate his personal desires and compulsions so that, when a situational conflict arises, he does what he ought to do rather than what he wants to do.... Moral development is the process by which a community seeks to transfer the egocentricity of the baby into the social behavior of the mature adult.
A moral code is based on moral concepts which have been learned gradually over a long period. The fundamental concepts are broadened and reinforced by learning from teachers, from adults in authority, and from peers.
Because of his intellectual immaturity, the young child cannot understand why certain things are right and others wrong. He learns to act as he is expected to without knowing why. Gradually, with increasing mental ability, he can see common features in apparently dissimilar situations. Then he can apply what he has learned in one situation to another situation. Specific moral concepts gradually become more general, more abstract, and more extensive.
As the individual grows older and as his social contacts broaden, he learns new moral concepts and generalizes old moral concepts to apply to new situations. By adulthood, he can apply moral concepts to an increasing range of conflicting life situations. In addition, he can ascribe different degrees of rightness or wrongness to acts, judging some as less wrong and some as more wrong. By this time, the person’s moral code, based on concepts learned in childhood and adolescence, is well formed. Any change in it is likely to be merely a shift in emphasis rather than the development of new concepts. When a shift occurs, it is largely in the direction of more conventional morality. This is especially true in the areas of areas of morality that relate to sex behavior.
INFLUENCE OF INTELLIGENCE ON DEVELOPMENT OF MORAL CODES The person’s ability to develop a moral code to guide his behavior is greatly influenced by his intellectual capacities, though other factors may aid or the development. The brighter factors may son, the more able he is t understand the moral concepts he learns, to perceive the situations in which they apply, and to profit from experience. The short attention span which is characteristic of people of low intelligence is related to impulsive behavior. Poor reasoning power results in lack of foresight and planning which, if combined with impulsiveness, often leads to behavior that violates the moral standards of the group. At every age, those of high IQ tend to be more mature in their moral judgments and behavior than those of the lower intellectual levels.
Immoral behavior is by no means found only in persons of low intelligence. On the other hand, socially unapproved methods of meeting life’s problems are more common in them. Deceit, for example, offers a means of solving difficulties which a person of limited intellectual capacity is more likely to use than a person of higher intelligence. The latter can adjust to his difficulties without being deceitful, although there is no guarantee that he will have the motivation to do so. He may find if easier to cheat than to be honest. And since he is clever, he will be able to cheat without detection more than those who are less clever.