Emotions and Moral Behavior

Health News has reported that the difference between moral reasoning and behavior is emotion.  This is based on research, which found fear, guilt and love to play a role in moral action.

Do you think your moral actions are regulated by your emotions?

Toronto researchers conducted a study where students were separated into three groups.  One group was told they would receive $5 if they received more than 10 correct answers.  Another group was told that if they hit the space bar the correct answer would show up on the screen, but only they would know if they hit it.  They were given the moral dilemma of being able to cheat and then asked whether or not they would.  The third group was not given the opportunity to cheat.

Thearticle called “Are We More Moral Than We Think?: Exploring the Role of Affect in Moral Behavior and Moral Forecasting” was published in the journal of Psychological Science.    The study found that those facing the dilemma were the most emotional, and their emotions drove them to do the right thing and not cheat.

During the study, the participants were connected to a machine via electrodes, which measured the strength of their heart contractions, their heart and breathing rates, and sweat in their palms, which all increase with heightened emotion.

Rimma Teper, one of the researchers, suggests, “If the stakes were higher the emotions associated with that potential gain might override the nervousness or fear associated with cheating”

What would you do if you were in the student’s position? Would you cheat?

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