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The role of emotions for moral judgments depends on the type of emotion and moral scenario


Ugazio, Giuseppe; Lamm, Claus; Singer, Tania (2012). The role of emotions for moral judgments depends on the type of emotion and moral scenario. Emotion, 12(3):579-590.

Abstract

Emotions seem to play a critical role in moral judgment. However, the way in which emotions exert their influence on moral judgments is still poorly understood. This study proposes a novel theoretical approach suggesting that emotions influence moral judgments based on their motivational dimension. We tested the effects of two types of induced emotions with equal valence but with different motivational implications (anger and disgust), and four types of moral scenarios (disgust-related, impersonal, personal, and beliefs) on moral judgments. We hypothesized and found that approach motivation associated with anger would make moral judgments more permissible, while disgust, associated with withdrawal motivation, would make them less permissible. Moreover, these effects varied as a function of the type of scenario: the induced emotions only affected moral judgments concerning impersonal and personal scenarios, while we observed no effects for the other scenarios. These findings suggest that emotions can play an important role in moral judgment, but that their specific effects depend upon the type of emotion induced. Furthermore, induced emotion effects were more prevalent for moral decisions in personal and impersonal scenarios, possibly because these require the performance of an action rather than making an abstract judgment. We conclude that the effects of induced emotions on moral judgments can be predicted by taking their motivational dimension into account. This finding has important implications for moral psychology, as it points toward a previously overlooked mechanism linking emotions to moral judgments.

Abstract

Emotions seem to play a critical role in moral judgment. However, the way in which emotions exert their influence on moral judgments is still poorly understood. This study proposes a novel theoretical approach suggesting that emotions influence moral judgments based on their motivational dimension. We tested the effects of two types of induced emotions with equal valence but with different motivational implications (anger and disgust), and four types of moral scenarios (disgust-related, impersonal, personal, and beliefs) on moral judgments. We hypothesized and found that approach motivation associated with anger would make moral judgments more permissible, while disgust, associated with withdrawal motivation, would make them less permissible. Moreover, these effects varied as a function of the type of scenario: the induced emotions only affected moral judgments concerning impersonal and personal scenarios, while we observed no effects for the other scenarios. These findings suggest that emotions can play an important role in moral judgment, but that their specific effects depend upon the type of emotion induced. Furthermore, induced emotion effects were more prevalent for moral decisions in personal and impersonal scenarios, possibly because these require the performance of an action rather than making an abstract judgment. We conclude that the effects of induced emotions on moral judgments can be predicted by taking their motivational dimension into account. This finding has important implications for moral psychology, as it points toward a previously overlooked mechanism linking emotions to moral judgments.

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45 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
08 University Research Priority Programs > Foundations of Human Social Behavior: Altruism and Egoism
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:27 Nov 2012 11:53
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:05
Publisher:American Psychological Association
Series Name:Emotion
ISSN:1528-3542
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024611
PubMed ID:21859189

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