Emotions in the Moral Life

2013.05.02
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Fear and Schadenfreude are therefore marginal or non-prototypical moral emotions, and they are shown along the left and bottom margins, respectively, of Figure 1. A more difficult question is the emotion of love. Agape love is a central emotion in the ethical systems of many religions Templeton, However psychological work on agape love has treated it primarily as a trait, a "love style" Lee, used by some people in their romantic relationships.

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More work is needed to determine whether agape love as an emotional experience can be triggered in social situations, with pro-social results. A third consideration when searching for moral emotions is that cultural variation in both emotions and in moral systems can create local moral emotions, or locally moralized emotions.

For example, the Natyashastra, a Hindu treatise on drama and the emotions from the 2 nd century A. Many Westerners may recognize that such an affective state, sometimes obtained through meditation, has benefits for mental health. But in the context of Hindu beliefs about transcendence and the importance of non-attachment sama becomes an important moral emotion.

Emotions in the Moral Life

The selection and placement of emotions in Figure 1 must therefore be seen as the best guess of a Western emotion researcher, speculating about his own culture. The mapping of moral emotions in other cultures would be somewhat different. Ever since Plato crowned reason as the king of the soul and ruler of the passions, there have been occasional voices of protest. The balance of power began to change dramatically in the 's.

As researchers began to chronicle the early and dramatic emergence of the moral emotions in children Harris, , and the early affective responses children have to the violation of standards Kagan, , the weapons became available to wage what might be called the "moral-emotional correction" "revolution" would be too strong a word. Jerome Kagan was one of its first leaders. In The Nature of the Child he proposed that "beneath the extraordinary variety of surface behavior and consciously articulated ideals, there is a set of emotional states that form the bases for a limited number of universal moral categories that transcend time and locality" p.

Kagan thought that these emotional reactions are the driving force of moral judgment, and that moral reasoning is often just post-hoc rationalization. Kagan's arguments were extended by theorists in a variety of fields. The economist Robert Frank showed that the moral emotions serve as "commitment devices," which allow people to work together in the face of temptations to defect, while simultaneously signaling to others that they can be counted on in future interactions not to defect.

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The philosopher Allan Gibbard argued that the moral emotions are adaptive syndromes shaped by evolution to make people liable to "normative governance," that is, the pull of rules and moral discourse. The sociologist James Q. Wilson revived Hume's arguments about the "moral sense," and grounded them firmly in a review of findings from across the behavioral sciences.

By the early 's social psychologists began taking part in the moral-emotional correction. Major review articles on shame Tangney, et al. These converging trends made it possible to ask in the 's: could moral reasoning be an epiphenomenon? Could human morality really be run by the moral emotions, while moral reasoning struts about pretending to be in control?

Haidt b argued for this "Wizard of Oz" scenario. He drew on research in primatology, neurology, anthropology, and psychology to suggest that moral judgment involves quick gut feelings, or affectively laden intuitions, which then trigger moral reasoning as an ex-post facto social product..

This "social intuitionist" model of moral judgment says that people do indeed engage in moral reasoning, but they do so to persuade others, not to figure things out for themselves. This model reverses the Platonic ordering of the psyche, placing the emotions firmly in control of the temple of morality, while reason is demoted to the status of un-humble servant 4. Whether the moral emotions are ultimately shown to be the servants, masters, or equal partners of moral reasoning, it is clear that they do a tremendous amount of work in the creation and daily functioning of human morality.

The capacity to feel contempt, anger, disgust, shame, embarrassment, guilt, compassion, gratitude, and elevation may or may not separate humans neatly from other animals, but it certainly separates humans from Homo Economicus. Morality dignifies and elevates because it ties us all to something greater than ourselves: each other. Journal articles in PsycInfo, on selected emotions and topics. The count was limited to journal articles that contained the word s in the left-hand column either in the key-phrase field, or in the title of the article.

Pro- sociality of Action Tendency. Angyal, A. Disgust and related aversions. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 36, Aristotle Nichomachean ethics. Martin Oswald, Trans. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

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Robert C. Roberts extends to the moral life the account of emotions presented in his Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology (), that they are. Cambridge Core - Psychology: General Interest - Emotions in the Moral Life - by Robert C. Roberts.

Original work published 4th Cent. Asendorpf, J. The expression of shyness and embarrassment. Crozier Ed.

Concepts Unwrapped - Moral Emotions

Babcock, M. On differentiating embarrassment from shame. European Journal of Social Psychology , 20 , Bargh, J.

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The four horsemen of automaticity: Awareness, efficiency, intention, and control in social cognition. Srull Eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Batson, C. Influence of self-reported distress and empathy on egoistic versus altruistic motivation to help.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 45 , Evidence for altruism: Toward a pluralism of prosocial motives. Psychological Inquiry , 2 , Baumeister, R. Shallow gratitude: Public and private acknowledgment of external help in accounts of success. Basic and Applied Psychology , 16 , The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin , , Victim and perpetrator accounts of interpersonal conflict: Autobiographical narratives about anger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 59 , Guilt: An interpersonal approach.

Baumgarten-Tramer, F.

Journal of Genetic Psychology , 53 , Berkowitz, L. On the construction of the anger experience: Aversive events and negative priming in the formation of feelings. Berkowitz Ed. New York: Academic Press. Boehm, C. Hierarchy in the forest: The evolution of egalitarian behavior.

Cialdini, R. Empathy based helping: Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 52 , Altruism or egoism? That is still the question.

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Clark, M. Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 37 , Darwin, C.

Is Joy a more Moral Emotion than Happiness?

The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Original work published Good natured: The origins of right and wrong in humans and other animals. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.