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Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending

2. Moral Reasoning

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In this lecture, we think about moral reasoning, focusing in particular on: (i) the definition of moral reasoning as the ways in which people think about and perceive right and wrong; (ii) Kohlberg’s 1973 theory of moral reasoning and development, which suggests that children’s moral development is complete by around 9-10 years old; (iii) the role that a preconventional level of moral reasoning can have on potentially criminal behaviour; (iv) further research into moral development and its relationship with criminal behaviour.


In this course, Professor Ciarán O’Keeffe (Buckinghamshire New University) explores cognitive explanations for offending. In the first lecture, we think about Eysenck’s criminal personality theory, which separates personality measures into three dimensions: extraversion and introversion (E), neuroticism and stability (N), and psychoticism (P). In the second lecture, we think about Kohlberg’s developmental theory of moral reasoning, with a particular focus on his preconventional stage. Next, we think about cognitive distortions beyond moral reasoning, including hostile attribution theory, minimalisation, and Crick & Dodge’s social information processing model. In the fourth and final lecture, we think about Sunderland’s 1939 differential association theory, its criticisms, and its influence on Bandura’s social learning theory.


Professor Ciarán O’Keeffe is associate professor of education and research and head of the School of Human and Social Sciences at Buckinghamshire New University. Professor O’Keeffe’s research interests include investigative psychology and parapsychology, and has made numerous television and radio appearances alongside an array of celebrities. Some of Professor O’Keeffe’s recent publications include 'Things That Go Bump In The Literature: An Environmental Appraisal of 'Haunted Houses'' (2020) and 'Restorative Justice and Recidivism: Investigating the impact of victim-preference for level of engagement' (2014).

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APA style

O'Keeffe, C. (2022, March 24). Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending - Moral Reasoning [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Keeffe, C. "Forensic Psychology – Cognitive Explanations for Offending – Moral Reasoning." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Mar 2022,

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