Test of character: Using instruments to probe conflict styles and moral intuition

Instruments gauge our moral compass and our facility for managing conflictObservers of human behavior are intrigued by the ways in which people respond to interpersonal challenges or moral dilemmas—those times when we are in conflict with others or with ourselves. The choices we make reveal much about who we are.

Researchers have developed instruments to help us survey our inner landscapes and to make sense of the contours and borders of the moral and social self. Let us consider two such instruments—one that illuminates conflict styles and another that measures moral intuition.

Many basic mediation trainings begin with a discussion of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)—a self-administered test used to assess and make sense of the different styles that each of us has in handling conflict. Participants score their test responses to identify their dominant conflict style among five different modes—competing, avoiding, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating—to gain understanding of the impact those styles may have on personal and group interactions.

Although the test is available online for anyone who’d like insight into their own conflict style, it is, alas, not free (although affordable). There is, however, a conflict style test which can be completed online for no cost. Test yourself with the Adult Personal Conflict Style Inventory at the web site for the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA (a great web site for those interested in learning more about faith-based peacemaking initiatives).

A very different test—one that gauges our moral intuition—is the Moral Sense Test, part of a research study sponsored by the Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Harvard University which seeks to achieve the following purpose:

Nothing captures human attention more than a moral dilemma. Whether we are soap opera fanatics or not, we can’t help sticking our noses in other people’s affairs, pronouncing our views on right and wrong, permissible and impermissible, justified or not. For hundreds of years, scholars have argued that our moral judgments arise from rational, conscious, voluntary, reflective deliberations about what ought to be. This perspective has generated the further belief that our moral psychology is a slowly developing capacity, founded entirely on experience and education, and subject to considerable variation across cultures. With the exception of a few trivial examples, one culture’s right is another’s wrong. We believe this hyper rational, culturally-specific view is no longer tenable. The MST has been designed to show why and offer an alternative…The MST has been designed for all humans who are curious about that puzzling little word “ought” — about the principles that make one action right and another wrong, and why we feel elated about the former and guilty about the latter.

Click here to participate in the test and to see how well calibrated your own moral compass may be.

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