Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Conventions: Conventions are agreements on approval and disapproval of actions that may have been made explicitly once, but have evolved over time to a more or less unconscious basis for the coordinated action of most members of a group or society. These conventions, on the other hand, lead to the expectation of certain consequences of actions.

Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Item Summary Meta data
Upton I 126
Conventions/Turiel/Upton: (Turiel 1983(1)) Thesis: morality is structured by concepts of harm, welfare and fairness. In contrast, actions that are matters of social convention have no intrinsic interpersonal consequences. For example, in school, children usually address their teacher using their title and surname (…). However, there is no intrinsic reason that this is any better than addressing the teacher by their first name (…).
Only social convention (…) makes ‘Mr Smith’ more appropriate than ‘Joe’. These conventions are arbitrary in the sense that they have no intrinsic status, but are important to the smooth functioning of the social group as they provide a way for members of society to coordinate their social exchanges. Understanding of convention is therefore linked to the child’s understanding of social organisation.
Recent research into children’s beliefs about social exclusion suggests that children are able to separate these two aspects of moral reasoning, but that their ability to tell the difference between morality and social convention increases during adolescence (Killen and Stangor, 2001(2); Killen. 2007(3)). >Morality/Kohlberg, >Morality/Turiel; (TurielVsKohlberg).

1. Turiel, E (1983) The Development of Social Knowledge: Morality and convention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2. Kilien, M and Stangor, C (2001) Children’s social reasoning about inclusion and exclusion in gender and race peer group contexts. Child Development, 72: 174-86.
3. Killen. M (2007) Children’s social and moral reasoning about exclusion. Current Directions in
Psychological Science, 16: 32-6.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Turiel, Elliot
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011

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