Project on Moral Emotions and Enduring ConflictOverview:
This research examines the critical relationship between moral emotions and enduring conflict. Moral emotions are those (such as guilt, rage, and humiliation) that motivate moral or immoral behavior. Our first study in this area built on the seminal works of Evelyn Lindner and James Averill, and tested the difference between situations that disinhibit aggressive responses to humiliation from those that do not -- examining their relative effects on aggressive behavioral intentions and long-term attachment to negative emotional states. In other words, we believe that different communities prescribe different norms for certain types of encounters; influencing people’s emotional experiences, expressions, and reactions to those encounters. Some norms may label a given encounter (such as a direct confrontation) as humiliating, and sanction aggressive responses, which often leads to ruminations over the encounter and further aggression. Others may label the same encounter differently, or prescribe a more inhibited response, leading to less rumination and aggression. Our study, conducted in the lab, found that participants who perceived the norms of the simulation as disinhibiting with regard to aggression were associated with more aggressive intentions and higher levels of negative emotional recall and rumination, even after a one-week delay (Coleman, Goldman, and Kugler, forthcoming). Thus, different individual differences and different community norms led to different experiences and reactions to the same conflict encounter, and contributed to the persistence of negative feelings and intentions regarding the conflict. Follow-up studies are currently in development.