Moral emotions and the envisioning of mitigating circumstances for wrongdoing

Jared Piazza, Pascale Sophie Russell, Paulo Sousa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Anger may be more responsive than disgust to mitigating circumstances in judgments of wrongdoing. We tested this hypothesis in two studies where we had participants envision circumstances that could serve to mitigate an otherwise wrongful act. In Study 1, participants provided moral judgments, and ratings of anger and disgust, to a number of transgressions involving either harm or bodily purity. They were then asked to imagine and report whether there might be any circumstances that would make it all right to perform the act. Across transgression type, and controlling for covariance between anger and disgust, levels of anger were found to negatively predict the envisioning of mitigating circumstances for wrongdoing, while disgust was unrelated. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings to less serious transgressions, using a continuous measure of mitigating circumstances, and demonstrated the impact of
anger independent of deontological commitments. These findings highlight the differential relationship that anger and disgust have with the ability to envision mitigating factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-722
Number of pages16
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number4
Early online date25 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Anger, disgust, moral emotions, mitigating circumstances, moral judgment, deontological


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