Situating moral sentiments: How strategic emotion construction enables compassion avoidance Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Cameron, C. Daryl
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • According to the dominant view of moral emotions, emotions commit us to act pro-socially even at cost to ourselves. Yet constructionist models of emotion--which posit that discrete emotions emerge from core affect and emotion concepts--suggest that strategic construction may allow for malleability of moral experience. This dissertation examines whether motivations lead people to construct emotions consistent with their preferences. If people want to avoid pro-social behavior, they might conceptualize ambiguous affect as disgust rather than compassion. In Study 1, trait fear of compassion predicted less compassion and more disgust toward homeless individuals. In Study 2, priming fear of compassion increased donation avoidance. In Study 3, manipulating helping cost did not change explicit emotion or perceived similarity to weak groups; perceived helping cost and fear of compassion predicted more disgust and less compassion. Finally, Study 4 revealed strategic construction on implicit measures. In an approach-avoidance task, high cost increased impulsive avoidance of homeless for those high in fear of compassion. In an affect misattribution procedure, emotional granularity predicted less compassion when high cost had been imposed. Strategic emotion construction is possible, but may depend on whether motivation is measured or manipulated, and on whether compassion is measured explicitly or implicitly.
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  • In Copyright
  • Payne, B. Keith
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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