Blog Post #3: Is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” for Real?  

As we have learned in class, transparency is defined as “behavior as conduct that presumes openness in communication and serves a reasonable expectation of forthright exchange when parties have a legitimate stake in the possible outcomes of effects of the sending or receiving of the message. It is an attitude of proactive moral engagement that manifests an express concern for the persons-as-ends principle when a degree of deception or omission can reasonably be said to risk thwarting the receiver’s due dignity or the ability to exercise reason” (Plaisance, 2014), or in simpler terms, to be transparent you are open and bearing no secrets.

Dove is known to be one of the most favored and cherished brands there is, for they speak perfectly to each and every one of their target markets. In the past decade, their Campaign for Real Beauty movement has gone viral numerous times on several different social networking sites. Their commercials, advertisements, and promotional speaking all are known to cheer women up about their bodies, saying that all women are beautiful—no matter their shape, size, race, age, etc. They have also been highly praised in not Photoshopping their ads or their models as compared to other companies and brands that are claimed to do so.

Personally, I have always liked Dove’s outlook and Real Beauty campaign only because it’s something different and refreshing from typical beauty products’ messages. After reading the case in point in our textbook about the Campaign for Real Beauty not being real, it’s unclear what Dove was trying to do in their advertising efforts. When questioned, they denied the fact that the pictures were altered sticking to their duty of, “Dove’s mission is to make more women feel beautiful every day by widening the definition of beauty and inspiring them to take great care of themselves. Dove strives to portray women by accurately depicting their shape, size, skin color and age…’let’s be perfectly clear — Pascal does all kinds of work – but he is primarily a printer – and only does retouching when asked to. The idea for Dove was very clear at the beginning. There was to be NO retouching and there was not,” confirmed Annie Leibovitz, commenting on the ProAge campaign” (Bercovici, 2008).

It’s unclear what the true story is behind the controversy, but I have to say if Dove really did alter their photos, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world. Yes, they preach the idea of real beauty and how women’s views of beauty are all distorted and meanwhile they are seen to be distorting their women too. I think what’s worse in this case is Dove lying about it if it’s true. If they did alter their photos, all they have to do is own up to it, and not be seen fraudulent in the topic of transparency.


Bercovici, J. (2008). Dove: we didn’t airbrush our lumpy ladies. UpStart Business            Journal. Retrieved from              airbrush-our-lumpy-ladies.html?page=all

Plaisance, P. (2009). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (pp. 84-86). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Case in Point: Crowdsourced News Tests Limits in Boston Bombings

Explosion at Boston marathon

With the Internet such an integral part of all of our lives, many ethical issues arise because of how unrestricted and virtually limitless the Internet is. One of these issues is citizen journalism. Citizen journalism can be a great thing, and can be reputable and well reported. But, it can also be extremely dangerous and cause issues when citizens, who think they know what they’re doing, “report” on things before they know all of the facts. People naturally want to be the first ones to know everything, and sometimes post things before finding out if it’s actually true. And the thing about the Internet is that once you post something, an unlimited amount of people can see it. It’s also never really gone even if you delete it.

Part of being a journalist is making sure that your sources are credible, and that you have the facts straight before you report on something. If you don’t, it can severely hurt your reputation and your credibility. “Citizen journalists,” or people Tweeting about events they witness don’t typically worry about this, and just post things as soon as they hear them. But, this can cause a snowball effect of misinformation and cause people to panic and react to things that aren’t even true. This can cause a huge problem in a crisis or during a big event. It can confuse police and security officials and cause major problems.

This is exactly what happened during the Boston Bombings, as described in the Case in Point in the “Harm” chapter. Bystanders and people in Boston were Tweeting things about the suspects and other details of the bombings that weren’t actually true. News stations even reported on things that people Tweeted that later ended up being disproved. This made the news stations look bad and lose some credibility. In the chaos, the stations seemed to be more interested in getting the newest story the fastest, instead of making sure their facts were straight.

Overall, citizen journalism can be extremely positive, and can help get the word out about important events in nontraditional ways. It’s quicker than traditional journalism, and typically has less of the biases that network news often has. But, it really can go wrong when people don’t think, or don’t know what they’re doing. One Tweet from a random person can get blown out of proportion, or misinterpreted, and before you know it it’s a huge mess.

Case in Point: Is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” For Real?

Everything can be distinguished psychologically and perceived in different ways, especially in art. As a photographer, I have my own opinion to this matter, but can also view the sides of others. The Point Case study in the book Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice, called “Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ for Real?” illiterate an issue in 2004 when Dove focused on the visual components of a “real” women model called “Campaign for Real Beauty.” The parent company of Dove, Unilever, proclaimed how the commercial media of Dove is not viewing the “real” women appropriately to what they actually look like. Not only did Unilever focus on Dove, but its agency as well, Oglivy and Mather, creating a controversy between photography and common people. The revealing of what the behind the scenes process of the photo shopping was for each model shocked people who are inexperienced in this field. Check out this video to see:

Stepping back from the moment, evaluating the history of what beauty is cause a difference between times. Make-up designing, body shapes, hairstyles alter per generation. In the 1400s to 1600s, curvaceous women were seen as sexy. This was one of the main moments in history that women as seen as a beautiful figure with their natural body. The Renaissance community considered women with lighter hair to be more appealing. It continues in to the late 1800s, but then alters into a more self-conscious body type with thinner waists and larger breasts. Of course this differs between countries, cultures, and ages. A feminist named Naomi Wold explains about the myth of beauty says, “Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” (Integral Life). Humans’ sense of beauty is all in the mind.

Photographers, editors, graphic designers, and the viewers have a freedom to voice their own opinion. However, there must be a care on how we show the ideas. Immanuel Kant defines freedom in the book Media Ethics, “Freedom is not just another word…it defines us as a moral agent and thereby comes with a serious duty or obligation” (page 85). The creators of that image had the right to edit the photograph and subject to whatever extent. It is considered art. Unilever interviews Pascal Dangin, the photographer of the main Dove campaign, replying to the question about what he thinks of the editing, “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive” (page 85). However, as much as artists have the freedom to edit a photo, there must be a clear obligation how the image is processed and not natural.

As human nature, we are attractive to symmetry. This can illiterate to objects as well as people. This includes similar noses within a community, eyes that are even, symmetrically designed jaw structures, etc. We all have an obligation to show that everyone is beautiful in their own individual way. As Kant explains about the dignity of human nature that forces people to get out of their comfort zone, “His articulation of the concept of transparency, through his theory of human dignity, challenges us with a question: Do we have the moral courage to do more than “talk the talk” about how we value truth and integrity, all the while exploiting people and situations when it’s convenient or sever our interests?” (page 84). There are people that “need” editing, but it is not our place to proclaim to them the issue. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Work Cited:

Bennett, C. (2013, March 8). No glow: Dove’s ‘Beautify’ reverts pics to raw state. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Dabitch. (2008, May 9). Surprise! Dove “campaign for real beauty” was retouched. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Fisher, V., & Wilber, K. (2009, February 11). Beauty and Feminism. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Plaisance, P. (2009). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (pp. 84-86). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Richter, A. (n.d.). You Probably Wouldn’t Have Been Pretty By Ancient Standards.      Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

The Evolution video – Dove Self Esteem Project. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Case in Point: Product Placement

In the media today, transparency is essential to building trust and credibility with consumers and audiences. A brand’s overall success lies in its abilities to allow their information and content to be visible, open, trustworthy and honest. Another factor that ties into transparency is authenticity.

In the case of product placement, one of the advertising industry’s most popular techniques, brands create authentic environments, which makes situations in the media believable (Plaisance, 2014). Product placement is considered “the practice of embedding a product, brand or service icapture7nto a film or storyline in lieu of airing more traditional commercials (Plaisance, 2014). Product placement is prevalent across numerous media platforms today including film, television and music. Although this advertising method is so popular, why is it considered a problem?

The ethical question surrounding the appropriateness of product placement is disclosure. Since product placement has become so common, it is hard to determine when the appearance of a brand in some type of media platform is a form of artistic expression or simply a way to make money. Many do not see a problem in this type of advertising. However, many consider this a shameless advertising technique. At times, audiences can be turned off from a program for using product placement and diminishing its credibility. Today, different industries are working together to basically create a story around a specific product. For instance, Absolute Vodka got “Sex and the City” to build an episode around their drink called the “Absolut Hunk” (Plaisance, 2014). Although this is increasing brand awareness and somewhat enhancing a show, this practice can be seen unethical because audiences are unaware of the paid advertising they are being exposed to when choosing to watch television programs.

This research is appealing because of my thesis that I completed on product placements in contemporary music videos. In all of my research, product placement seemed very appealing to both creators and consumers. Product placements in music videos have proven to be successful in increasing brand awareness, brand recall and brand recognition (Burhalter & Thornton, 2014). As I was looking at how influential brands in this type of platform can be, I found that people were very aware of product placements, but generally weren’t influenced to purchase brands they’ve been exposed to. When looking at this through an ethical perspective, I now see the division between artistry and advertising. Since music is such an artistic platform and music videos are the chance for artists to tell a visual story, how are viewers able to distinguish the difference between the enhancing of a story or the way to make money?

In the two videos that I looked at in my thesis and asked survey respondents to screen, people were not very influenced in actually going out to purchase a product that they’ve seen in a music video. The two videos included “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga and “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. Survey respondents were very aware and paid attention to the product placements in the videos, but this did not link to people’s purchase intentions. It is possible that the lack of people’s interest in purchasing the brands seen in the videos is directly linked to whether or not they see it as an unfair way to advertise to viewers.


Burkhalter, N. J. & Thornton, G. C. (2014) Advertising to the beat: An analysis of brand placements in hip-hop music videos. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(5), 366-362.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Bloggers

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Bloggers

Although news blogging is seen as a less formal form of reporting, it is still under the umbrella of journalism. Therefore, it must be held to a certain standard so that it is seen as a similarly reputable and trustworthy source for news. Celebrity news bloggers must follow a code of ethics to ensure that their work is credible.  


    1. Give credit to journalistic sources.

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should always give credit when using information from other sources.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Give credit to any information gathered from another source
  • Site any pictures used in blog posts
  • Make sure all facts and pictures are clear and relate to the topic
  • Properly identify those who appear in each picture
  • Include hyperlinks for all sources

For example:

If a celebrity blogger does not give credit to all journalistic sources, people will assume that all facts and pictures were gathered from the celebrity blogger first and that all information was released by them.  This will ultimately result in plagiarism, which is against the law and can produce a large fine.


  1. Separate facts from allegations. 

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should always Separate fact from allegations or rumors. This keeps the peace and the credibility of the Celebrity blogger is solidified.

  • Separate facts from allegations.
  • Don’t alter confirmed information or comments.
  • Keep celebrities names clear of any rumors.
  • Maintain a solid foundation of facts to avoid slander or starting rumors.
  • When needed cite a source to confirm that fact.
  • When not sure if fact or allegation, don’t report it.

For example:

If a celebrity blogger does not  separate fact from allegation, a lot of readers will believe the allegations and a celebrities  reputation could be tarnished. If they Separate the facts and let it be known this is the solid truth, fans will respect that celebrity a lot more and the blogger. This also solidifies the bloggers credibility, by stating facts and making them known instead of spreading with allegations or rumors. This shows the blogger has done their homework and are trying to inform the public and not pull one over on them.


  1. Seek out truth and report it

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should actively attempt to find new, newsworthy information and disclose it to the public.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Seek out facts and report them
  • Give the readers the context of the situation
  • If possible, identify where these facts are coming from
  • Whenever possible, attempt to corroborate information with the subject (i.e. celebrity)
  • Do not report information that has been proven to be false or yet to be proven true
  • The bloggers own input/opinion should always be clearly stated as such or at least to the point in which the average reader would be capable of differentiating it from fact
  • Never create stories without any factual backing

For example: 

The stories that celebrity bloggers write should be based off of a reasonable amount of facts and not just rumor alone. Celebrity bloggers should never create stories out of thin air and report on them as if they are the truth. Readers should be allowed to understand the context of the story as well as its background and understand when the blogger is offering his or her own input/opinion.


  1. Avoid conflicts of interest

Ethical celebrity news blogging requires that one remain impartial in their reporting.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Be transparent and honest about conflicts of interest when they’re unavoidable
  • Never accept gifts or anything else could be construed as bribes from celebrities that you report on
  • Be transparent about product sponsorships, and be clear between when promoting a product as an ad or just a personal preference
  • Avoid mixing work with outside friendships

For example:

Many celebrity news bloggers are celebrities themselves (ex: Perez Hilton). In these cases, the blogger must be careful not to mix business with pleasure. For instance, if a story comes out about Kim Kardashian getting fake butt implants, he shouldn’t hesitate from reporting on the story solely because he is friends with her. He also shouldn’t change the facts of the story because of their close relationship, or ask her about the story as a friend, and then report on the things she told him in confidence.

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Gossip Bloggers

Bloggers Code of Ethics:

Celebrity Gossip Blogs

Amanda Apicelli, Henry Forbes, Annie Zinkus, RJ Marceau, & Dina Cashman


Members of the Society of Celebrity Gossip Blogs believe that sharing insights about those in the public sphere is a critical element to the public.  The duty of celebrity bloggers and journalists is to shed light on the figures that so many look up to.  While these public figures have the right to privacy it is the job of celebrity bloggers and journalists to give the public all the information on their role models and decision makers.  To some extent, these figures need to be held to a higher standard and celebrity bloggers help hold them to those standards all while sharing vital information to the public.  Keeping integrity and honesty at the forefront starts with being thorough and credible.  Members of the society agree that those who benefit financially via the public sphere should be 100% transparent, and if they can not be it is the job of bloggers and journalists to step in and relay the vital information to the public.

Freedom of Speech: The right to a personal opinion, but the need to separate opinion from fact

As a gossip blogger, you have the right to voice your own opinion. You contain the basic rights of producing unique and independent content on the internet. However, you must make it obvious that your opinions are your opinions, and are not cold, hard facts. Opinions about a celebrity or public figure must be presented in a way that would not lead the reader to question validity or lead the reader to believe them to be facts.

Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton values his right to freedom of speech (Hilton, 2015). Although many of the stories that he posts to his blog harshly criticize and mock celebrities and public figures, he has a right to do so. He does a great job at presenting facts and facts, and either starts or ends his posts with is own opinion as to not mix the two and confuse the reader.

Libel and Slander: Avoid posting content that can cause harm to one’s reputation

When it comes to posting images, bloggers should choose photos with an ethical interest in mind. Photos should be relevant to the story and information being portrayed and should not be chosen or shown out of context. Photos should also not be retouched in order to depict a different or untrue message, and if photos have been retouched, it should be stated. Portraying children and people affected by tragedy or grief should be a sensitive subject that should be thought out.

In terms of other content, the accuracy of facts must be checked before making a post public, especially if the information could potentially harm the individuals involved. If a mistake is made on a post, the information should be updated and corrected immediately. In judicial cases, one should wait until a formal charge has been filed before stating facts and names. The blogger should also show good taste when dealing with celebrities and public figures. They should not draw unnecessary attention to a personal or private aspect of a subject’s life that is not already in the public sphere. The pursuit of information should not harm the individual based on their circumstances.

Privacy: Seek permission whenever possible

Gossip bloggers should entertain but also keep an ethical framework in mind, concerning reputations. When faced with using content from social networking websites, bloggers should seek permission whenever possible, when subjects are involved. They should also only use sources and quotes from Facebook and other social media networking sites if necessary and always try to seek permission before posting content from other pages.

If using anonymous account user names, make sure to provide a link to an email contact if subjects in articles have opinions or questions. No name targeting of followers should be allowed on the blog. Followers can share their opinions but should not act harshly towards one another. When posting gossip about others blogger should Make sure all facts and stories are correct to the best of their ability  before instantly sharing with all of the blogger followers.

Gossip bloggers should take care in not accepting bribes.This pertains especially towards individuals who are being posted about if they are really in the wrong. Bribes should also not be accepted by those who wish to persuade bloggers to frame articles in a certain way.

Credibility : Maintain the quality of being trusted and believed in

In any form of Journalism or Writing, being credible is very important. Any media outlet or blogging site that reports false claims can lose their credibility by messing up one report. Sites such as TMZ are a big enough name that if they report false claims they can still hold their high credibility.

TMZ has had its history of false reports. In 2009 TMZ posted a photo of “JFK” partying on a boat with topless young ladies (Sonney 2013). The photo turned out to be from a Playboy spread. TMZ also in 2013 reported that rapper Lil Wayne had died due to seizures (Sonney 2013).  Lil Waynes friends went on Twitter and reported that the rumors were false and Lil Wayne was fine (Sonney 2013). Wayne’s good friend T.I. called out TMZ on this mistake on his Twitter (Sonney 2013). T.I. had some choice words for the organization that aren’t appropriate.

Any blogger specifically in gossip blogging must be credible because once they report any false claims people will turn on you. Especially with the rise of social media and information always accessible being credible is very important.



Hilton, P. (2015). PerezHilton. Retrieved from:

Sonney, J. (2013). The 10 biggest TMZ false reports. Elite Daily. Retrieved from:


Code of Ethics for Bloggers

Barstool Sports

by Claudia Weaver, Mary Sansone, Kristian Catalan, and Mike Pascal

Barstool is a popular sports and men’s lifestyle blog that was funded in Boston by David Portney. They tell juicy stories about athletes and women. Their aim is toward the common man.

Here are the following codes that Bloggers at this site should follow.

(Our presentation will go into more detail)

Do No Harm

Minimize personal offending which connects with privacy. Know who you are aiming at and the results that can occur. Such as what celebrity athlete or girl is being targeted and how are they being shown. There are limit to what people can handle. In the literature, try not be biased and have your aims responsive to both sides. This is something that barstool sports does not consider at times.


Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.

Smokeshows; It could be ethically wrong for them to just take the pictures rather than ask that person if they could use them. Right to ask the permission

Tell the Truth

Be relevant and accountable for information given out. If the blog has something that might cause harm, have proof. There is freedom of speech letting the blog speak how they feel as necessary, but they must take into consideration of the whole society that is seeing this. Be transparent!

Stay Updated and Avoid Distractions

Advertising is a crucial way to get voices heard, but you cannot distract from aims. You must stay updated so that information can change and add to goals. This blog updates hourly which is good, but needs to make sure not to get in to the unimportant details or blowing up something no worthy.

Code of Ethics: Corporate Blogs

Gaby Dawson, Alex George, Ian Knechtle, Olivia Zacks

Seek the truth and report it – This applies to all blogs, for corporate blogs the most important thing is that they are telling the truth about the products they are likely pushing in the post. If it is an informational post then it is important the company is getting the whole story right. In Whole Food’s “Whole Story,” blog they recently wrote about how food is frequently wasted, giving studies and backing up their cause, they also gave ways to prevent this. It is important the information is correct here or else the post is completely useless.

Act independently – Unlike independent blogs corporate blogs are usually trying to incorporate their own products into their blogs. For blogs such as Whole Food’s “Whole Story,” the company uses recipes and DIY’s to connect with readers. While doing so the company also incorporates products they sell in order to execute the recipe.  Another example includes BMW’s blog, which showcases numerous BMW cars and positive posts about their brand.

Be accountable and responsible – It is important to be accountable and responsible when posting. It is essential to acknowledge how readers are viewing corporate blogs, both positively and negatively. If something is seen as negative to readers, it is important for corporate blogs to understand, accept and recover from this. The best example is when The CEO of Whole Foods wrote a blog separate from “Whole Story” and this blog slandered other products, this was not his place to comment, and reflected poorly on the company.

Respect competition – Although it may be difficult, corporate blogs need to respect their competition to convince readers that they are a trustworthy and fair. If a brand posts negative content about a competing brand on a blog, readers will also view the brand in a negative light. These kinds of actions reflect poorly on the brand as a whole and its employees. As in the example above with Whole Foods, the corporation received a lot of flack for posting negative content about other brands.

Provide content that is relevant and important to the topic – Corporate blogs should post content that is relevant to their specific brand and to their target audience. If an individual is looking at a corporate blog, they are interested in the brand for some reason. Therefore, corporate blogs should stick to certain topics that their brand is involved in to adhere to their target audience and not stray away from the originality of the brand. Patagonia’s blog has been very successful at providing visual content of nature and the outdoors that is directly connected to what Patagonia stands for. Another example includes Amazon and their Amazon Web Services blog, which provides content that can be beneficial to consumers and involves tips and services for users.

Present opinions as opinions – Your opinion and interpretation of events is important and should be shared but must never be confused with hard facts or data. When voicing your own or someone else’s opinion or interpretation, always state it as such. Never present opinion, interpretation or conjecture as fact.

Give credit when necessary – If quoting another source or using another source’s ideas, give credit to original owner of content by providing a link or using quotes. This will ensure that readers view a corporate brand as trustworthy.

Minimize harm – Show compassion and be sensitive to those that may be affected by the content. Show good taste and recognize that individuals will always view content in different ways. Because of this, corporate blogs should be respectful in the words and images that they post in hopes of avoiding misconceptions.


AWS Official Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

Blogger Code of Ethics. (2006, August 26). Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

BMWBLOG. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

Code of Ethics for Bloggers, Social Media and Content Creators. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

Patagonia. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

Whole Story. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from

Lawrence Kohlberg


Lawrence Kohlberg is a philosopher that is famous for his theories of moral development. He was born into a wealthy family and was educated privately, but decided to stray away from that path and joined the Merchant Marines after high school. During this time he traveled the world. At one point during his travels, he worked on a ship that helped smuggle refugee Jews from Europe to Palestine. Here is where he had his first questioning of how one could deliberately disobey authority and law, which became the basis for his research (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988).

After his time abroad, he became enrolled at the University of Chicago. Here, he attained his PHD, and began reading work by Piaget (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). Kohlberg was highly influenced by Piaget as well as John Dewey, and James Mark Baldwin, all of which argued that humans develop philosophically and psychologically in a progressive manner (Barger, 2000). From here, he became a professor at Harvard first as a developmental psychologist and then moved into the field of moral education (Barger, 2000).

During his work challenged the major popular assumptions of “socialization”, as he argued that people actively give meaning to the world around them through social cues (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). When he first began working in the field of cognition, the topic still was not widely accepted psychologist, and it took him five years to publish a dissertation (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). His work eventually began to gain popularity at the Harvard Center for Moral Education through his research (Barger, 2000). His work also gained popularity during the time of the Civial Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, when the ideas of justice and decision making were admired (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988).

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development centers around the idea that “…we develop an ever-increasing moral sense as our notion of what constitutes justice evolves and expands” (Plaisance, 2014). This means that as we grow, our understanding of morals grows as well through our social experiences (Barger, 2000). He created six stages of moral development, claiming that we develop through these stages but not all at the same pace, and most people do not make it to stage six (Plaisance, 2014). The stages begin as we are self centered children concerned with nobody but ourselves, and as we grow our sphere of concern expands to include others (Plaisance, 2014). The six stages are as follows:

Stage 1: We act to avoid punishment
Stage 2: We act on the desire to be rewarded; actions are “right” if they serve our own interest
Stage 3: We are driven by a need for social acceptance
Stage 4: We have duties as a member of society which include upholding law
Stage 5: We are driven by our sense of social utility; that decisions ought to be made to benefit society and be impartial.
Stage 6: We recognize the universality of moral principles, that we have moral obligations to the human community regardless of law or culture (Plaisance, 2014)

Kohlberg explained that it is impossible to jump stages, that we must move through the stages progressively as we continue to learn through social situations (Barger, 2000).
Kohlberg’s theory can be used in the field of Journalism. For example, if a journalist were struggling with the decision of what to include in a story, and knew that including a certain piece of information would benefit society but would hurt the subjects involved in the story but chose to include the information to benefit society, they would be at stage 5. They are at this development stage because they have realized that their decision needs to benefit society, not the subjects involved in the story. They realize that they have a moral duty to society to uphold.


Barger, R. N. (2000). A summary of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.   Retrieved from:

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications

Rest, J., Power, C., & Brabeck, M. (1988). Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987). American Psychologist, 43(5), 399-400. doi:10.1037/h0091958

Sissela Bok

Sissela Bok is a Swedish-American philosopher who has specialized in the investigation of practical ethical issues. She was the daughter of two Nobel Prize winners, sissela bokher father, Gunnar Myrdal, was a world-renewed economist, politician, and author. His novel, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, was well known in the United States and was cited in the historic Brown Vs. Board of Education case ( Her mother, Alva Myrdal, was a Swedish sociologist and politician. In the 1930’s, she was largely influential in the creation of the Swedish welfare state (Hirdman, 2006 p.7). Bok is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and formerly a professor of Philosophy at Brandies University. Bok is a former member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and she serves on the editorial of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Bok is also an award-winning author, in which she explores the ideas of happiness, morality, peace, violence, lying, and honesty. Bok’s most recent novel, Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science, examines past philosophical interpretations on happiness, and her “field notes” from her “travels in pursuit in what has been thought and written about that wide wish of Happiness” (Bok, 2003).  According to Bok, happiness is not reserved for more “serene, peaceful times”, it is often set on the backdrop of human suffering. She quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s novel, No Future Without Forgiveness, as he describes the feeling of voting in South Africa for the first time. Saying, “It was dreamlike. You were scared someone would rouse you and you would awake to the nightmare that was apartheid’s hard reality”. (Bok, 2003).

The world is seeing dramatic reductions in “illiteracy, infant mortality, and premature death.” This raise in the over-all quality of life on the planet is re-defining the way people perceive happiness in their own lives. According to Bok, there is also no defining cause and effect relationship with happiness, there is no human experience that is guaranteed to induce happiness into all people.(Bok, 2003)  Thales believed health to be cause of man’s happiness. Others have cited wealth, power, and religion to be the root cause of happiness. Bok believes certain factors are more likely than others, but none one factor is necessary in life to achieve happiness.

Bok’s other works examine issues including media violence, which she discusses in her book Mayhem: Violence as a Public Image. Bok draws on the history of violence, back to Roman gladiators, and the hypnotic impact it has on an audience. She draws similar connections to the violence currently in mass media, urging young viewers to play a more active role in critically analyzing their own media consumption. Bok makes the case to increase media literacy to help these young viewers improve their abilities to evaluate what they watch (Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 2003).

One of Bok’s key contributions was the Bok Model for ethical decision-making. Her model is a three step process for an individual to make the most ethical decision in practical scenario. The first step of the model is to “consult your conscience”, meaning to examine the decision through your initial decision-making process, and how the decision makes you feel. Then, “seek alternatives”, Bok’s model asks the individual to seek alternate choices that are less harming. The final step is to “consult others”, and to examine how your decision will affect others.

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Bok’s more optimistic, and alternative, stance on happiness is an important counter-argument to the more popularized philosophical outlooks on the topic. Philosophy ultimately, is a way for individual to better understand something about the world, themselves, or the lives of others around them. In Happiness, Bok also utilizes real world examples, from credible individuals, to illustrate her thesis on happiness and how it applies in the context of reality. While other philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell, claim that the majority of people in the world are unhappy.

Bok also refutes the claims of philosophers who claim to explain happiness through a single factor, like Karl Marx, who explains how religion is the illusion of happiness, and is an attempt to gain true happiness. Bok’s stance on happiness is rooted in the idea that every person is different, and the experiences that make him or her are all different. There is no unifying philosophy that can encapsulate the human race. In saying that there are millions of factors to happiness, but there is no factor required to achieve it ultimately gives the power to the individual.

Bok, S. (2003, October 14). The Pursuits of Happiness. Retrieved February 13, 2015, from

Bok, S. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2011, from

Hirdman, Y. (2008). Alva Myrdal: The passionate mind. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

The Bok Model. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

[Photo of Sissela Bok]: retrieved from: