Springsteen as Developmental Therapist: An Autoethnography

Rodney Dieser

Abstract


Based on differing theories of moral development proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg, Martin Hoffman, and John Gibbs, this paper posits that listening to Bruce Springsteen’s music can increase moral growth. Scores of Springsteen songs parallel psychological techniques used to increase moral development, such as being exposed to two or more beliefs that are contradictory, social perspective-taking by listening to moral dilemmas, gaining empathy with the distress that another person experiences, hypothetical contemplation, and meta-ethical reflection. Through qualitative-based autoethnographical storytelling, the author outlines how his moral development was enabled through such Springsteen songs as “Factory,” “Highway Patrolman,” “Independence Day,” “Johnny 99,” and “Used Cars,” as well as two self-disclosures from Springsteen’s Live 1975-85 album.


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