Rationality and Emotions (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society series B)

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In relation to the IMC, three constructs explained The remaining variables were not relevant factors for individualizing moral concerns. With regard to binding moral concerns, four variables explained That is, when self-reflection and perspective-taking increase, binding moral concerns decrease.

By contrast, when moral self-concept and empathic concern increase, binding moral concerns also increase. The remaining variables were not relevant factors for binding moral concerns.

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This study embraced the challenge of relating the variables of empathy, self-consciousness, and moral self-concept in an investigation of moral concerns. Results showed that despite their high affinity, the constructs present specificities in relation to moral concerns. The initial expectations that some aspects of empathy would be good predictors of moral concerns and that the higher-order metacognitive skills would not be predictive of moral intuitions were confirmed. The importance of the affective aspects related to moral concerns and moral self-concept which are positively associated with moral concerns, is emphasized.

Higher-order metacognitive skills were negatively associated with binding moral concerns.

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Empathic concern, moral concerns and moral self-concept not only appear together but also vary in the same direction, that is, when one is high, the others are high as well. This result suggests the relevance of a new synthesis of moral psychology that focuses on affective and social processes and relates motivation to moral intuition and self-interest Haidt, For Haidt and Joseph , virtues exemplify this kind of social-perceptual skills. In turn, perspective-taking was the only variable to covariate negatively with binding moral concerns and insight. In the case of insight, the negative covariance with perspective-taking may be explained by the fact that although both are high-order cognitive processes, they are psychological phenomena of opposite natures.

According to Leiberg and Anders , perspective-taking is a deliberate activation process, unlike emotional contagion, where a process of instant activation of the emotional representation of others occurs. Thus, as a high-order cognitive process, perspective-taking modulates the distress caused by emotional contagion. Therefore, with regard to insight, it is speculated that the orientation of the inference process directed toward the self might possibly occurs through the inhibition of the perspective of the other and vice versa, which explains also the negative correlation with perspective-taking.

Another distinctive quality of insight can explain its correlation with the variable of moral self-concept as opposed to the absence of correlation between the moral self-concept and self-reflection. In addition, according to Trapnell and Campbell , it is necessary to distinguish between two types of reflection: the type motivated by an epistemic interest in the self and rumination, a process driven by perceived disadvantages in relation to the self.

It would be possible to suggest that self-assessment without insight, therefore, becomes rumination, which prevents the development of moral self-concept. As a good predictor of both individualizing and binding moral concerns, moral self-concept demonstrates the power that reputation has on the cohesion and cooperation of communities. In addition, Silvia et al. If these data may be extended to self-concept, then this phenomenon explains why high moral self-concept and moral behavior are significantly associated Young et al.

Empathic concern as predictive of individualizing and binding moral concerns may be explained by the central role that automatic, affective psychological processes play in relation to moral concerns, according to the Moral Foundations Theory Graham et al. This result confirms a trend noted by the scientific literature on the high importance of empathic affection for interpersonal relationships.

The definition of empathic concern as motivation to help individuals for whom one feels empathy Davis, predicts this relationship with pro-social attitudes, empirically confirmed by Robinson Furthermore, although the relationship between empathy deficits and psychopathy is controversial Lishner et al. Moreover, aan het Rot and Hogenelst indicate that limitations in the capacity for empathic affect worsen the interpersonal deficits of autistic individuals. It should be noted that personal distress appeared together with empathic concern as a good predictor of individualizing moral concerns; that is, the greater the distress or subjective sensitivity was when encountering a stressful situation or emergency, allied to the concern or motivation to help individuals for whom one feels empathy, the greater the individual moral concerns relative to harm and fairness.

The data from the present study especially corroborate the findings of Carrera et al. As expected, perspective-taking and self-reflection were negative predictors of binding moral concerns, which may be explained by the fact that moral concerns are intuitive social cognitions and that the presence of higher-order processes is able to change or even cancel out social intuition Haidt, For example, the recent study by Todd and Burgmer notes that perspective-taking is able to combat the automatic expression of racial prejudice, that is, to the extent that the self is psychologically connected to the target group, culturally absorbed discrimination yields to other possibilities of intergroup contact.

Together, these findings explain the negative association between perspective-taking and self-reflection and binding moral concerns, pointing a direction for efforts that intend to combat this type of harmful automatic expression. Overall, the results suggest that the affective aspects of empathy and moral self-concept are significantly associated with moral concerns, whereas cognitive aspects that require higher-order processes do not significantly relate or negatively relate to moral concerns.

That is, the manner in which individuals concern about others and about the groups to which they belong seems to be strongly related to the moral concept they have of themselves and the emotions they are able to process in everyday situations that involve moral issues associated with affective social information processing. The implications of these results for understanding moral concerns suggest empirical evidence in favor of the social-intuitionist moral model Haidt, According to this model, moral judgments are motivated more strongly by social and emotional moral intuition than by conscious reason, as predicted by the rationalist theoretical model of morality Kohlberg, However, results raised the question of the extent to which moral concerns, produced intuitively, can contribute to mature moral functioning.

According to Narvaez , metacognitive skills such as self-regulation, self-reflection, and locus of control are skills that need to be developed alongside emotions and moral intuitions for mature moral functioning to be possible. The results suggest that the use of conscious reason through self-reflection and perspective-taking can produce insights that are able to cancel out automatic assessments or socially produced intuitions Haidt, That is, higher-order processes seem to play an important role in the evaluation and organization of knowledge derived from moral intuitions and in the promotion of mature moral functioning at the individual and broad social levels, in addition to enabling human moral evolution.

The study presented an up-to-date methodological strategy by focusing on self-reported measures in a virtual setting.

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Self-reported measures may contain limitations; however, the anonymity and distance from the eyes of the researchers may have made the answers even more reliable. In a future study, it would be important to correlate the variables to individual characteristics that may be related to moral functioning, such as the number of siblings and membership in community groups. Although this study found some positive and negative associations between the constructs, the analyses performed do not make it possible to make inferences with regard to how the constructs influence one another.

Other methodological strategies may be necessary to understand how the relationships between constructs are organized. In addition, it was possible to empirically analyze the understanding of the moral concerns of a sample of Brazilians.


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Given the importance and complexity of the phenomenon, it is fundamental that studies on the psychological mechanisms underlying moral concerns and mature moral functioning continue to advance with the continuity of studies on theorizations of human morality. The influence of affective empathy and autism spectrum traits on empathy accuracy. PLoS One, 9 6 , e Adolphs, R. The social brain: Neural basis of social knowledge. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, Barrett, L. Taking sociality seriously: The structure of multi-dimensional social networks as a source of information for individuals.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

Rationality and emotions.

Series B, Biological Sciences, , Carrera, P. I feel so sorry! Tapping the joint influence of empathy and personal distress on helping behavior. Motivation and Emotion, 37 2 , Cremer, D.

Self-Perception, Empathy and Moral Self-Concept Predict Moral Concerns in Adults

A passion for respect: On understanding the role of human needs and morality. DaSilveira, A. Psico, 43 2 , Davis, M. Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44 1 , Decety, J. Putting together phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspectives on empathy. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2 1 , De Vignemont, F. The sense of agency: A philosophical and empirical review of the Who system.

Consciousness and Cognition, 13 1 , Frith, C. Scarantino , draws a distinction between an emotion and an episode of emotion , with the emotion corresponding to what causes a change in action readiness and the episode of emotion corresponding to the actual change of action readiness. Control precedence involves interrupting competing processes, preempting access—in memory, inference, perception, etc. The idea that emotions are behavioral programs that bring about prioritized impulses to act can be combined with an origin story about how some of such programs evolved to deal with fundamental life tasks, leading to what Scarantino has labeled the New Basic Emotion Theory.

According to it, learning can affect both what activates the evolved program input and what responses the program brings about output through the interplay of the prioritized action tendency and regulation.

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Finally, Scarantino endorses a teleosemantic theory of content for emotions to deal with the problem of intentionality, and proposes that different emotions differ from one another and from non-emotional states both in terms of the state of prioritized action tendency they cause the attitude and in terms of what they represent the content. On this view, fear is a prioritizing action control program which represents dangers because it has the function of causing avoidant behaviors in the presence of danger, anger is a prioritizing action control program which represents slights because it has the function of causing aggressive behaviors in the presence of slights, and so on.

A central challenge for motivational theories of emotions of both phenomenological and non-phenomenological varieties is to account for the states of action readiness distinctive of different emotions. First, many emotions do not appear to motivate action at all. Grief and depression, for example, seem to involve a general depotentiation of the readiness to act.

Third, emotions like joy involve the selective potentiation of a fairly open range of behavioral options, so it is unclear what action tendency may be associated with them.

Fourth, it seems to be possible for the same action tendency to be associated with different emotions, and for different emotions to be associated with the same action tendency, provided that these tendencies are described at a sufficiently abstract level of analysis for critiques of motivational approaches, see, e. Two enactivist themes in particular are relevant for emotion theory. The second theme is the focus on the embodied , embedded and extended character of cognitive processes the theme of embodiment looms large in affective science as well; see, e.

Whereas traditional cognitive science and neuroscience have focused on the brain in isolation from the rest of the body and from the environment, enactivists argue that we will fail to understand cognition if we neglect the reciprocal causal interactions between brain, body and environment as they dynamically unfold over time.

The idea that complex cognitive abilities can rely on the scaffolding provided by the external environment has proven especially popular among emotion theorists. To which tradition of research do enactivist theories of emotions belong? The focus on experience might appear to nudge enactivism towards the Feeling Tradition see, e. Enactivism is indeed influenced by the notion, central to the phenomenological philosophical tradition, that the body is an experienced structure Husserl []; Merleau-Ponty [] rather than simply a physical structure.

Colombetti has made the case that the phenomenological tradition can enrich the affective neuroscience of emotions.