What is it about?

What effect does the type of relationship have on the emotions we feel toward a person who behaves badly? When do we feel anger, or disgust, or contempt in blaming someone else? When do we feel guilt or shame in blaming ourselves? We find very different patterns of emotion depending on whether the relationship is based on closeness, or authority, or fairness.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show that moral blame, and the emotions that go with it, depend more on the relationship in which the immoral act is done than on either the person who is making the judgment or the specific nature of the act. In other words, morality and moral emotions are about human relationships rather than being about individuals or particular acts.


The research behind this article was carried out without financial support of any kind by a great working group that persevered through many difficulties with great enthusiasm and good humor. My hope is that the study will contribute to shifting the focus in moral psychology to (1) relationships and (2) the functions of moral emotions, and at the same time contribute to further development of Fiske's Relational Models Theory.

Diane Sunar
Istanbul Bilgi University

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This page is a summary of: People respond with different moral emotions to violations in different relational models: A cross-cultural comparison., Emotion, June 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/emo0000736.
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