UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Moral emotions – motives for (im)moral behavior?


Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E; Latzko, B; Gasser, L; Malti, T (2011). Moral emotions – motives for (im)moral behavior? In: 14th Biennial Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction Instruction (EARLI), Exeter, UK, 30 August 2011 - 3 September 2011.

Abstract

Schools and teachers are highly relevant for the socialization of the upcoming generation who is responsible for the future global networked society. Facing the bold changes in modern societies due to globalization, educators have to foster children's and adolescents' moral growth to enable them to preserve moral and democratic values in these increasingly diversified societies.
This paper provides an empirical approach to discuss how developmental research on children's and adolescents' moral emotions can help us understand how both immoral and morally relevant behavior evolve. Are moral emotions related to children's moral, prosocial behavior, as well as to their immoral, aggressive behavior? We present three studies that investigate the link between these aspects. Based on the findings we discuss how moral emotions might serve as motives for (im)moral behavior. We argue that studying how moral emotions can serve as motives for (im)moral action tendencies may not only be of conceptual significance to developmental researchers, but also of practical importance to educators.
Facing the bold changes in modern societies in the course of globalization, it is highly relevant for all educators to foster children's and adolescents' moral growth to enable them to preserve moral and democratic values in increasingly diversified societies. Moreover, being able to understand themselves as socially embedded, mutually interdependent (i.e., networked) agents helps students to become more open towards and tolerant of various kinds of "other-ness", for example cultural diversity. Moral learning and understanding encompass far more than just knowing about rules and values. If these rules and values are to become relevant to the self, children and adolescents must attach valence and meaning to them and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to consider other peoples' welfare. Because emotions give meaning and valence to interactions, actions, and events (e.g., Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003) they play a central role in moral learning.
Accordingly this paper provides an empirical approach to discuss how developmental research on children's and adolescents' moral emotions can help us understand how both morally relevant and immoral behaviour evolve. The central question is whether moral emotions are related to children's moral, prosocial behavior, as well as to their immoral, aggressive behaviour. We present three studies investigating the link between moral emotions and eventual (im)moral behaviour. Based on the findings we discuss how moral emotions might serve as motives for (im)moral behavior.
Study 1 investigated the question how moral emotions evolve during the course of childhood by comparing at-risk children's moral emotions and moral judgments with those of children attending an ordinary elementary school. At-risk children differ from "normal" children by having problems with discipline, being more aggressive towards both teachers and classmates, and by behaving immorally and transgressing moral rules. Drawing conceptually on the happy-victimizer-approach, at-risk children were assumed to a) accept moral rule transgression more often; b) attribute positive feelings to the victimizer more often; and c) express less empathy towards the victim than control children. 80 boys aged 9 to 11 were asked to judge moral rule transgressions as well as to attribute emotions to the transgressor and to the victim and to justify these judgements and attributions. Content analysis (Mayring, 2002) was performed (Cohen's k =. 84). Although no differences were found for rule knowledge, we found notable differences regarding moral reasoning and emotion attributions. At-risk children showed a higher acceptance of rule transgressions and less moral justifications for non-acceptance. With respect to the victim, the at-risk group had difficulties attributing any emotions at all, and more frequently reported to have no idea what harming someone means as compared to control children. The results show that educating moral emotions seems to be as important as educating moral reasoning. Emotional experiences can be meaningfully used as a basis for initiating children's moral learning.
Study 2 investigated the relations between physical and relational aggression and moral knowledge and emotions in a sample of 237 7- and 9-year-old primary school children. Firstly, we expected that physical aggression would be associated with deficits in moral knowledge and moral emotions. Secondly, we hypothesized that relational aggression is negatively associated with moral emotions, but is not associated with moral knowledge. Both relational and physical aggression were assessed by peer nominations and teacher ratings. Moral knowledge was measured by moral judgments and justifications of these judgments', moral emotions were measured by emotion attributions and corresponding justifications. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that physical aggression was associated with deficits in moral knowledge and moral emotions. Relational aggression, however, was not associated with moral deficits, but with an advanced understanding of moral emotions, suggesting that children with high levels of relational aggression use their advanced understanding of moral emotion for strategic purposes.
Study 3 investigated whether children's moral judgments, emotion attributions, and justifications produced in real-life narratives differ from those generated in hypothetical scenarios. The sample consisted of 190 Swiss kindergarten and primary school children. Based on Wainryb et al.'s (2005) procedure, a narrative of an own interpersonal moral transgression was elicited from each child, followed by a half-standardized interview to probe children's motives, moral judgments, justifications for these judgments, emotions attributed to both themselves (perpetrator) and others (victim), and justifications for the emotions attributed to the self. Children were also presented with two hypothetical scenarios of moral transgressions. They had to morally judge these transgressions, justify their judgments, attribute emotions to both perpetrator and victim, and justify the emotions attributed to the perpetrator. Narratives were content analysed (Cohen's κ = .74). Results revealed distinct patterns for real-life and hypothetical transgressions: 9-year-old girls attributed more fear to the perpetrator than 9-year old boys in the hypothetical context, whereas no differences were found in the real-life context. Children gave more moral, sanction-oriented, legitimate, hedonistic, and undifferentiated justifications for hypothetical transgressions. Hypothetical transgressions were judged as more severe than real-life transgressions and were given more moral justifications (by older children) and more undifferentiated justifications (by younger children). In contrast, real-life transgressions were more often
presented as justified or legitimate, and moral judgments were more often justified by proposing an alternative strategy.
The data of the three studies indicate that although children understand the validity of moral rules, they do not necessarily understand the emotional consequences of following or breaking them. This is especially true for at-risk and physically aggressive children. Accordingly, we argue that immoral conduct is, in part, related to this deficit regarding moral emotions. Therefore it is important to systematically introduce a wide range of moral emotions into educational practice. Studying how moral emotions can serve as motives for (im)moral action tendencies is not only conceptually significant to developmental researchers, but also of practical importance to educators, in particular to teachers. Before establishing educational programs on moral learning in school settings we need to know more about the underlying developmental mechanisms. By studying specific real-life conflict situations and the emotions invoked in the child, teachers can help inculcate sociomoral sensitivity. Sensitizing educators to the variety of interventions they can use in specific situations is a key to stimulating children's moral growth.

Schools and teachers are highly relevant for the socialization of the upcoming generation who is responsible for the future global networked society. Facing the bold changes in modern societies due to globalization, educators have to foster children's and adolescents' moral growth to enable them to preserve moral and democratic values in these increasingly diversified societies.
This paper provides an empirical approach to discuss how developmental research on children's and adolescents' moral emotions can help us understand how both immoral and morally relevant behavior evolve. Are moral emotions related to children's moral, prosocial behavior, as well as to their immoral, aggressive behavior? We present three studies that investigate the link between these aspects. Based on the findings we discuss how moral emotions might serve as motives for (im)moral behavior. We argue that studying how moral emotions can serve as motives for (im)moral action tendencies may not only be of conceptual significance to developmental researchers, but also of practical importance to educators.
Facing the bold changes in modern societies in the course of globalization, it is highly relevant for all educators to foster children's and adolescents' moral growth to enable them to preserve moral and democratic values in increasingly diversified societies. Moreover, being able to understand themselves as socially embedded, mutually interdependent (i.e., networked) agents helps students to become more open towards and tolerant of various kinds of "other-ness", for example cultural diversity. Moral learning and understanding encompass far more than just knowing about rules and values. If these rules and values are to become relevant to the self, children and adolescents must attach valence and meaning to them and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to consider other peoples' welfare. Because emotions give meaning and valence to interactions, actions, and events (e.g., Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003) they play a central role in moral learning.
Accordingly this paper provides an empirical approach to discuss how developmental research on children's and adolescents' moral emotions can help us understand how both morally relevant and immoral behaviour evolve. The central question is whether moral emotions are related to children's moral, prosocial behavior, as well as to their immoral, aggressive behaviour. We present three studies investigating the link between moral emotions and eventual (im)moral behaviour. Based on the findings we discuss how moral emotions might serve as motives for (im)moral behavior.
Study 1 investigated the question how moral emotions evolve during the course of childhood by comparing at-risk children's moral emotions and moral judgments with those of children attending an ordinary elementary school. At-risk children differ from "normal" children by having problems with discipline, being more aggressive towards both teachers and classmates, and by behaving immorally and transgressing moral rules. Drawing conceptually on the happy-victimizer-approach, at-risk children were assumed to a) accept moral rule transgression more often; b) attribute positive feelings to the victimizer more often; and c) express less empathy towards the victim than control children. 80 boys aged 9 to 11 were asked to judge moral rule transgressions as well as to attribute emotions to the transgressor and to the victim and to justify these judgements and attributions. Content analysis (Mayring, 2002) was performed (Cohen's k =. 84). Although no differences were found for rule knowledge, we found notable differences regarding moral reasoning and emotion attributions. At-risk children showed a higher acceptance of rule transgressions and less moral justifications for non-acceptance. With respect to the victim, the at-risk group had difficulties attributing any emotions at all, and more frequently reported to have no idea what harming someone means as compared to control children. The results show that educating moral emotions seems to be as important as educating moral reasoning. Emotional experiences can be meaningfully used as a basis for initiating children's moral learning.
Study 2 investigated the relations between physical and relational aggression and moral knowledge and emotions in a sample of 237 7- and 9-year-old primary school children. Firstly, we expected that physical aggression would be associated with deficits in moral knowledge and moral emotions. Secondly, we hypothesized that relational aggression is negatively associated with moral emotions, but is not associated with moral knowledge. Both relational and physical aggression were assessed by peer nominations and teacher ratings. Moral knowledge was measured by moral judgments and justifications of these judgments', moral emotions were measured by emotion attributions and corresponding justifications. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that physical aggression was associated with deficits in moral knowledge and moral emotions. Relational aggression, however, was not associated with moral deficits, but with an advanced understanding of moral emotions, suggesting that children with high levels of relational aggression use their advanced understanding of moral emotion for strategic purposes.
Study 3 investigated whether children's moral judgments, emotion attributions, and justifications produced in real-life narratives differ from those generated in hypothetical scenarios. The sample consisted of 190 Swiss kindergarten and primary school children. Based on Wainryb et al.'s (2005) procedure, a narrative of an own interpersonal moral transgression was elicited from each child, followed by a half-standardized interview to probe children's motives, moral judgments, justifications for these judgments, emotions attributed to both themselves (perpetrator) and others (victim), and justifications for the emotions attributed to the self. Children were also presented with two hypothetical scenarios of moral transgressions. They had to morally judge these transgressions, justify their judgments, attribute emotions to both perpetrator and victim, and justify the emotions attributed to the perpetrator. Narratives were content analysed (Cohen's κ = .74). Results revealed distinct patterns for real-life and hypothetical transgressions: 9-year-old girls attributed more fear to the perpetrator than 9-year old boys in the hypothetical context, whereas no differences were found in the real-life context. Children gave more moral, sanction-oriented, legitimate, hedonistic, and undifferentiated justifications for hypothetical transgressions. Hypothetical transgressions were judged as more severe than real-life transgressions and were given more moral justifications (by older children) and more undifferentiated justifications (by younger children). In contrast, real-life transgressions were more often
presented as justified or legitimate, and moral judgments were more often justified by proposing an alternative strategy.
The data of the three studies indicate that although children understand the validity of moral rules, they do not necessarily understand the emotional consequences of following or breaking them. This is especially true for at-risk and physically aggressive children. Accordingly, we argue that immoral conduct is, in part, related to this deficit regarding moral emotions. Therefore it is important to systematically introduce a wide range of moral emotions into educational practice. Studying how moral emotions can serve as motives for (im)moral action tendencies is not only conceptually significant to developmental researchers, but also of practical importance to educators, in particular to teachers. Before establishing educational programs on moral learning in school settings we need to know more about the underlying developmental mechanisms. By studying specific real-life conflict situations and the emotions invoked in the child, teachers can help inculcate sociomoral sensitivity. Sensitizing educators to the variety of interventions they can use in specific situations is a key to stimulating children's moral growth.

Additional indexing

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper), refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development
Dewey Decimal Classification:370 Education
Language:English
Event End Date:3 September 2011
Deposited On:09 Jan 2012 17:11
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:15
Official URL:http://www.earli2011.org/media/Documents_EARLI2011/BookofAbstractsandSummaries.pdf
Related URLs:http://www.earli2011.org

Download

Full text not available from this repository.

TrendTerms

TrendTerms displays relevant terms of the abstract of this publication and related documents on a map. The terms and their relations were extracted from ZORA using word statistics. Their timelines are taken from ZORA as well. The bubble size of a term is proportional to the number of documents where the term occurs. Red, orange, yellow and green colors are used for terms that occur in the current document; red indicates high interlinkedness of a term with other terms, orange, yellow and green decreasing interlinkedness. Blue is used for terms that have a relation with the terms in this document, but occur in other documents.
You can navigate and zoom the map. Mouse-hovering a term displays its timeline, clicking it yields the associated documents.

Author Collaborations