Moral Personality of Brave and Caring Exemplars
Lawrence J. Walkera, and Jeremy A. Frimera
aDepartment of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Received 21 April 2006; revised 22 May 2007; accepted 24 May 2007. Available online 17 November 2007.
Two contrasting types of moral exemplars were examined so as to identify personality variables associated with moral action. The sample comprised 50 Canadian awardees for either exceptional bravery or caring, as well as 50 comparison participants. Participants responded to a set of personality questionnaires and a life-review interview. Personality variables were found to substantially augment moral cognition in the prediction of exemplary action. In support of the notion that there is a personological core to the moral domain, it was found that moral exemplars were distinguished from the comparison groups by themes embodied in their life narratives. Specifically, moral exemplars had stronger motivational themes of both agency and communion, were more likely to construe critical life events redemptively, more frequently identified helpers in early life, and reported more secure attachments. Furthermore, the personality of caring exemplars was more nurturant, generative, and optimistic than that of brave exemplars; these somewhat divergent personality profiles imply multiple ideals of moral maturity.