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Forensic Science & Addiction Research

Development/Validation of a Moral Questionnaire and the Question whether it is Possible to “Fake Good”

  • Open or Close Sten Levander*

    Department of Criminology, Malmö University, Sweden

    *Corresponding author: Sten Levander, Department of Criminology, Malmö University, S-20506 Malmö, Sweden

Submission: March 19, 2018; Published: May 08, 2018

DOI: 10.31031/FSAR.2018.03.000568

ISSN: 2578-0042
Volume3 Issue4


Overall objectives: Morality is back in criminological research. We designed a moral dilemma questionnaire and studied to which extent the instrument differentiated socially well-adjusted persons from criminals. If so, are criminals able to “fake good”, which would make the instrument useless except in a research context with anonymous participants.

Main study

Method: The questionnaire included a set of short stories describing a moral dilemma, and a set of solutions to the dilemmas. To each of these the subject should respond “right” or “wrong”. 297 well-adjusted subjects, working in governmental or private enterprises, 233 students at the Police Academy, and 321 prison inmates filled in questionnaire forms.

Results: A factor analysis suggested a 3-factor solution. Factors were interpreted as Rule knowledge, Rule adherence, and Utilitarianism. Prisoners differed markedly from well-adjusted subjects a discriminant analysis yielded 86% correct classifications. There were theoretically meaningful relations with a set of external validation parameters reflecting personality factors and disorders.

Conclusion: The results suggest that the questionnaire approach was successful in a research perspective.

Cheating study

Method: 46 prisoners filled in (anonymously) the moral dilemma questionnaire twice, honestly and trying to fake good. The order was rotated.

Results: The algorithm which correctly predicted 86% as being prisoner or socially well-adjusted was applied. None of the 46 participants were well-adjusted when responding honestly. Scores changed when they faked good, but only five managed to merge into the well-adjusted group.

Conclusion: Prisoners are not able to fake good with respect to moral statements. This opens for clinical use but is ethically problematic.

Keywords: Moral competence; Questionnaire; Criminals; Police students; Sex differences

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