People respond with different moral emotions to violations in different relational models: A cross-cultural comparison

Emotion. 2021 Jun;21(4):693-706. doi: 10.1037/emo0000736. Epub 2020 Mar 19.

Abstract

Consonant with a functional view of moral emotions, we argue that morality is best analyzed within relationships rather than in individuals, and use Fiske's (1992) theory of relational models (RMs: communal sharing [CS], authority ranking [AR], equality matching [EM], and market pricing [MP]) to predict that violations in different RMs will arouse different intensities of other-blaming emotions (anger, contempt and disgust) in both observers and victims, together with different intensities of self-blaming emotions (shame and guilt) in perpetrators, and to predict that these patterns of emotion will show similarity across both individuals and cultures. Three studies, using vignettes portraying moral violations in all RMs in different experimental designs, supported these expectations, while also producing some unexpected results. The intensity of shame and guilt varied markedly across RMs, but with little difference between the two emotions. The intensity of all 3 other-blaming emotions also varied across RMs. Anger was the most intense emotional response to violation in all RMs, whereas disgust and contempt were stronger in CS than in other RMs. Disgust and shame were linked more strongly in CS than in other RMs, and anger and guilt were more strongly linked than other emotion pairs in EM. Moral emotions in RMs involving hierarchy (AR and MP) differed widely depending on the perpetrator's dominant or subordinate status. Both Turkish (TR) and English-speaking (EN) samples showed similar patterns of all moral emotions across RMs. Understanding the functions of moral emotions in relationships using relational models can help to clarify multiple aspects of moral psychology. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).