25th March, 2022, Social Psychology Talk Series at School of Psychology, University of Kent
Moral Emotions Communicate Aggressions in Moral Punishment
Punishment typically follows from other-condemning moral emotions. Several studies indicated that emotions motivate punishment, with some suggesting that punishment expresses moral emotions, especially anger and moral disgust. Although some work referred to “outrage” as the emotion that motivates moral punishment, there has been evidence that different moral emotions under the family of outrage have their unique effects in predicting the punisher’s aggression tactic. Previous studies suggest that anger has a more vital link in predicting direct aggression, and moral disgust has a stronger link in predicting indirect aggression. In the current two projects, with four studies we tried to test these hypotheses from different perspectives of a moral punishment situation. In Project 1, we focused on the expresser’s perspective to test if self-generated moral emotions affect individuals’ aggression tactic choosing. The results revealed that anger endorsement related positively to both direct and indirect aggressive motives, disgust endorsement related only to indirect aggressive motives. In Project 2, we changed our view to the observer’s perspective to test if the perceived emotions expressed by others affect individuals’ anticipated aggression within the two aggression tactics of the expressor. We observed participants expected more direct aggression when an agent expressed anger than expressed disgust, but no differences in indirect aggression across the two expressed emotions. Perceptions of anger were more strongly related to direct aggression than indirect aggression expectations. Conversely, perceptions of disgust were more strongly related to expectations of indirect aggression than direct aggression. Additionally, after controlling for the expressed emotion manipulation, the predicting effect from perceived anger to anticipated direct aggression remained, while the effect from perceived disgust to anticipated indirect aggression became insignificant/marginal significant.