Perceived vulnerability as a common basis of moral emotions

Anton J. M. Dijker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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It is theorized that many moral emotions are triggered when a mechanism for (parental) care is activated by perceived vulnerability, and changes in the care object's well-being are subsequently evaluated and causally attributed. Participants reported different moral emotions (tenderness, concern, sympathy, guilt, and moral anger) in relation to different photographs of males and females widely differing in age. Using variation between emotion objects, it was shown that emotional reactions were highly intercorrelated and strongly related to perceived vulnerability and aroused protective tendency; with children and elderly arousing the strongest, and adult males the weakest, emotions. Moreover, these intercorrelations largely disappeared when vulnerability and protective tendency were statistically controlled. Theoretical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

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