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Psychology Moral Psychology
by
Chuck Huff, Owen Gaasedelen

Introduction

It is surely the case that the field of moral psychology is in flux today. It was abandoned by personality and social psychology in the 1930s and again in the 1970s because the expected pattern of stability of character or personality characteristics proved illusory (see Mischel 2004 in the Personality section for a historical review). Lawrence Kohlberg’s groundbreaking work in the late 1950s established a cognitive-developmental trajectory, rehabilitating the field and generating thirty years of research centered on the structure and development of conscious moral judgment. The resulting paradigm generated a great deal of research that became foundational to the current flowering of the field. Despite this clear success (or perhaps because of it) this research had a cluster of less salutary effects. Its philosophical commitments required the establishment of conscious reasoning as the only proper moral phenomenon for investigation, with the developmental progression of this reasoning as the central puzzle, making moral psychology a wholly owned subsidiary of developmental psychology (see Narvaez and Lapsley 2009 under Contemporary Overviews). With the gradual demise of this paradigm in the late 1980s, a new excitement is now (2011) growing in the area. A new synthesis combining research on automatic cognitive processing, emotion, neuroscience, and evolution has been proclaimed in Haidt 2007, written by one of the most prolific authors in the field (see Contemporary Overviews), though renewed interest and rapid expansion in the area make claims of synthesis somewhat premature. It is certainly interdisciplinary: philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and anthropologists alike are collaborating and disputing over the nature and extent of the field. Given this broad interdisciplinary interest, this bibliography will frame the field in an encompassing manner: cited here is work on moral judgment (long the child of privilege) but also on moral perception, intuition, emotion, planning, and action. In short, this discipline is interested in moral action and the influences and processes that support it. Though this is primarily a bibliography of psychological research and theory, it will by necessity contain sections reviewing other disciplines’ contributions (Philosophy, Religion, and Neuroscience). It will also bring to bear literatures in psychology that have not previously been thought to fly the banner of moral psychology. Thus, the organization of this bibliography is itself a theoretical statement about a rapidly evolving field: its contents, its extent, and its integration (or lack thereof). Many of the literatures here do not cite each other or are only beginning to look outside their towers. The issue is framed as taking moral action, in order to include a wide range of psychological processes relevant to being and becoming moral and to broaden the scope beyond the traditional emphasis on moral judgment. Literatures are brought together that have clear relevance for moral psychology, even though they may mention moral issues only in passing. Also examined are the influences, processes, and interdisciplinary context required to engage in this interdisciplinary inquiry.

Contemporary Overviews

Listed here are recent handbooks, review chapters, and other contemporary work that proposes to give an overview of the field. Greene, et al. 2001, Haidt 2007, and Narvaez and Rest 1995 are classic statements or empirical investigations. The remaining volumes are comprehensive handbooks or overviews of the field, either from the perspective of subdisciplines (for example, Killen and Smetana 2006, Lapsley and Narvaez 2004, and Mikulincer and Shaver 2010) or that put scholars from different disciplines in dialogue on a topic (Narvaez and Lapsley 2009 and Sinnott-Armstrong 2008).

  • Greene, J. D., R. B. Sommerville, L. E. Nystrom, J. M. Darley, and J. D. Cohen. 2001. An f MRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science 293.5537: 2105–2108.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1062872Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes a neuroscientific solution to the famous “trolley dilemma” in which moral intuitions differ depending on whether one directly or indirectly causes harm in order to do some larger good. One of the most highly cited of the early articles on the neuroscience of morality.

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  • Haidt, J. 2007. The new synthesis in moral psychology. Science 316.5827: 998–1002.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.1137651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pivotal publication by Jonathon Haidt in Science that proclaims a “new synthesis” in moral psychology, drawing on evolutionary, social, and cognitive psychology, and neuroscience.

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  • Killen, M., and J. G. Smetana, eds. 2006. Handbook of moral development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    Single-volume edited book that contains some of the best reviews of the developmental literature. It contains sections on developmental stages, distinguishing morality from convention, moral emotion, and moral education, each with chapters from a developmental perspective.

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  • Lapsley, D. K., and D. Narvaez, eds. 2004. Moral development, self, and identity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    A festschrift for Augusto Blasi, concentrating on the role and construction of the moral self in moral psychology. Several useful and pivotal reviews of the literature on the self.

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  • Mikulincer, M., and P. R. Shaver, eds. 2010. Prosocial motives, emotion, and behavior: The better angels of our nature. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    DOI: 10.1037/12061-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good representative of a literature with roots in the social psychology of helping. This literature tends to be somewhat isolated from other work in moral psychology, but its findings converge with that of other areas.

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  • Narvaez, D., and D. K. Lapsley, eds. 2009. Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers write on the underpinning and implications of moral character. Gives a good overview of the diversity of work being done.

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  • Narvaez, D., and J. R. Rest. 1995. The four components of acting morally. In Moral development: An introduction. Edited by W. M. Kurtines and J. L. Gewirtz, 385–399. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

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    The classic presentation of the four-component process model (interpretation, reasoning, decision, implementation) of moral action derived from the Kohlbergian tradition, now called “neo-Kohlbergian.” It is “neo” in that it is no longer a stage or a developmental model and is no longer concerned with only moral judgment. It is instead a schema-based approach to explaining the processes underlying moral action.

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  • Nucci, L. P., and D. Narvaez, eds. 2008. Handbook of moral character and education. New York: Routledge.

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    Excellent volume to represent the state of the art in the character education genre that Lawrence Kohlberg pioneered. Kohlberg-based approaches are still evident, but it represents a range of other approaches.

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  • Sinnott-Armstrong, W., ed. 2008. Moral psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Excellent three-volume (evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience) edited set that puts neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers in conversation. This is the single-best place to see what the current controversies in the field are, challenged and defended by the main proponents and critics.

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Classic Works

This section presents some of the classic historical references, concentrating on the turning points in the brief historical sketch of the field given in the introduction. The work ranges from the earliest contributions in the field (Hartshorne and May 1928) through the foundational work of Kohlberg (Kohlberg 1963 and Colby and Kohlberg 1987) and that of his critics (Blasi 1980 and Gilligan 1982) to a review handbook (Kurtines and Gewirtz 1991) that collects the state of the field in transition away from the Kohlberg paradigm.

  • Blasi, A. 1980. Bridging moral cognition and moral action: A critical review of the literature. Psychological Bulletin 88.1: 1–45.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.88.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the pivotal articles in the turn away from the Kohlberg hegemony. It reviews the accumulated difficulties in showing even a moderate connection between moral stages and moral action and proposes a central role for the self in bridging the gap.

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  • Colby, A., and L. Kohlberg. 1987. 2 vols. The measurement of moral judgment. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    The definitive version of Kohlberg’s interview-scoring methodology to measure stages of moral judgment. The system was to be revised further, with some tinkering with the higher order stages and their content. Volume 1: Theoretical foundations and research validation. Volume 2: Standard issue scoring manual.

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  • Gilligan, C. 1982. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    The classic critique of Kohlberg’s stage theory from the perspective of its inadequacy to characterize the moral reasoning of women. Gilligan proposes an “ethic of care” that is unique to women. Extensive research has failed to confirm a gender difference in moral reasoning, but this book was an important moment in the turning away from Kohlberg’s stage models.

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  • Hartshorne, H., and M. A. May. 1928. Studies in the nature of character: Studies in deceit. New York: Macmillan.

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    This book comprises studies that began in 1924 using a large panel of children, attempting to measure their tendency to deceive. The authors’ influential and controversial conclusion was that there was almost no cross-situational consistency in the character trait. This is the classic citation for the early discovery of the inconsistency of character.

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  • Kohlberg, L. 1963. The development of children’s orientations toward a moral order: Sequence in the development of moral thought. Vita Humana 6.1–2: 11–33.

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    Initial publication of Kohlberg’s early work establishing a stage theory of moral judgment, based on systematic interviews with boys of varying ages.

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  • Kurtines, W. M., and J. L. Gewirtz, eds. 1991. Handbook of moral behavior and development. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    Three-volume (theory, research, and application) edited handbook that is the last major accomplishment of the Kohlberg dynasty in moral development. The variety of articles it contains is also an early indicator of the paradigm change.

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Notable Applied Work in Moral Psychology

Here we collect some representative work in four different applied areas (Ethical Excellence in Science and Engineering, Volunteerism, Courageous Resistance, and Criminal Rehabilitation) in which relatively recent empirical work (as of 2011) has been done on the psychology of taking moral action. These are by no means a systematic sample of ways individuals take moral action, but they contain enough variety and detail to expand our notion of moral action (e.g., away from the simple moral judgment of dilemmas) and to test the limits of our knowledge about it. Keeping these four application areas in mind when one reviews the literature will help in judging whether the explanations in an area are grasping the whole subject or just one part of it.

Ethical Excellence in Science and Engineering

Technical work is often portrayed as isolated from the concerns of ethics, but it is in fact shot through with ethical and social implications. Much research in this area has looked at what pushes scientists and engineers to commit fraud and data manipulation, among other things (see de Vries, et al. 2006; Martinson, et al. 2005; and Mumford, et al. 2008), but other work examines what drives scientists and engineers to excellence in their ethical commitments (Huff and Barnard 2009).

  • de Vries, R., M. Anderson, and Brian C. Martinson. 2006. Normal misbehavior: Scientists talk about the ethics of research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 1.1: 43–50.

    DOI: 10.1525/jer.2006.1.1.43Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examines misconduct in scientific researchers and finds that it is more prevalent than previously thought. Interviews with scientists suggest that perceptions of a highly competitive field, the stage in one’s career, and one’s drive for success interact in scientists’ justification of misconduct.

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  • Huff, C., and L. Barnard. 2009. Good computing: Moral exemplars in the computing profession. IEEE Technology and Society 28.3: 47–54.

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    Study of exemplars in computing in Britain and Scandinavia. Finds that exemplars take different career paths in moral excellence, for example, craft (direct help using computing technology) or reform (change of social systems). Finds evidence for four categories of influence on moral excellence (personality, integration of morality into the self, skills and knowledge, and moral ecology).

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  • Martinson, B. C., M. S. Anderson, and R. de Vries. 2005. Scientists behaving badly. Nature 435:737–738.

    DOI: 10.1038/435737aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foundational publication of research on misbehavior in science. Finds a surprisingly large percentage of successful scientists willing to admit to having committed one of ten significant misbehaviors.

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  • Mumford, M. D., S. Connelly, and R. P. Brown. 2008. A sensemaking approach to ethics training for scientists: Preliminary evidence of training effectiveness. Ethics & Behavior 18.4: 25.

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    A report on an ethics training program in science based in moral psychology. Provides evidence that the training has both immediate and long-term effects.

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Volunteerism

What drives people to spend significant time, energy, and emotional resources helping others who are not directly connected to them? To answer these questions, psychologists have begun examining volunteers’ commitments and careers. Some cast the issue in the context of a broader, prosocial action literature (Penner, et al. 2004) or the moral development literature (Hart, et al. 2006), while Snyder and Omoto 2008 presents a practical review for those hoping to organize volunteer action.

  • Hart, D., R. Atkins, and T. M. Donnelly. 2006. Community service and moral development. In Handbook of moral development. Edited by M. Killen and J. G. Smetana, 633–656. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    This chapter reviews some of the recent social policy debate concerning the importance of civic engagement and illustrates the societal significance of community service. Various theoretical accounts for involvement in community service are explored, along with reviews of recent research.

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  • Penner, L., J. Dovidio, and J. A. Piliaven. 2004. Prosocial behavior: Multilevel perspectives. Annual Review of Psychology, Annual Reviews: 365–392.

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    Reviews research in prosocial behavior at three levels: helper-recipient dyads in the context of a specific situation, origins of prosocial tendencies, and prosocial actions that occur within the context of groups. The authors are some of the major contributors to the literature in this area.

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  • Snyder, M., and A. M. Omoto. 2008. Volunteerism: Social issues perspectives and social policy implications. Social Issues and Policy Review 2.1: 1–36.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-2409.2008.00009.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A definition of volunteerism is offered, and a three-process model for volunteerism is proposed. This model is used to organize empirical literature on volunteerism, providing a practical and comprehensive review of the research.

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Courageous Resistance

Some people are thrust into situations where they feel compelled to resist oppression or injustice imposed on others. This is the extreme edge of volunteerism, including the private hiding of Jews during the Holocaust (Oliner and Oliner 1988), exemplary agents in social change or social service (Colby and Damon 1992), and public resistance to kidnappings in South America and principled dissent and whistleblowing in organizations (Thalhammer 2007).

  • Colby, A., and W. Damon. 1992. Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York: Free Press.

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    Classic in-depth interview and biographical study of exemplars in the social services field. Features engaging personal stories of heroism and moral courage. Also offers substantive theory and speculation by authors who have done extensive work in developmental moral psychology.

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  • Oliner, S. P., and P. M. Oliner. 1988. The altruistic personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: Free Press.

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    Another classic study of heroism by individuals who often risked their lives to save people from the Holocaust. Uses extensive psychological testing and interviews of a group of rescuers and a matched group of those who did not help to rescue Jews. Documents personality characteristics and situational characteristics that influenced the decision and ability to help.

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  • Thalhammer, K. 2007. Courageous resistance: The power of ordinary people. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230607460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent overview of the variety of ways that people help in extreme circumstances, including whistleblowing, political resistance, and helping victims of genocide. Authors who are central researchers in the field collaborate to construct a useful psychological process model of this extreme version of moral action.

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Criminal Rehabilitation

This section involves those who have at one time failed to achieve common standards of moral behavior and are attempting to reform their lives and reintegrate themselves into society. Recent social-psychological work identifies moral emotion (Stuewig, et al. 2009 and Stuewig, et al. 2010), cognitive empathy (Jolliffe 2004), and other psychological mechanisms (Tangney, et al. 2007) as crucial components in turning around the lives of those seeking simple moral normalcy.

  • Jolliffe, D. 2004. Empathy and offending: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Aggression and Violent Behavior 9.5: 441–476.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2003.03.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Meta-analysis of thirty-five studies of cognitive and emotional empathy and offenders. Shows the complex interactions of each type of empathy, with likelihood to reoffend. For instance, low empathy is related to offending in violent offenders but not for sex offenders.

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  • Stuewig, J., J. P. Tangney, C. Heigel, L. Harty, and L. McCloskey. 2010. Shaming, blaming, and maiming: Functional links among the moral emotions, externalization of blame, and aggression. Journal of Research in Personality 44.1: 91–102.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2009.12.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study across several samples, including violent offenders, showing that shame-proneness may be indirectly related to violence through externalization of blame, while guilt seems to be negatively related to violence.

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  • Stuewig, J., J. P. Tangney, D. Mashek, P. Forkner, and R. Dearing. 2009. The moral emotions, alcohol dependence, and HIV risk behavior in an incarcerated sample. Substance Use & Misuse 44.4: 449–471.

    DOI: 10.1080/10826080802421274Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of offenders that shows that shame-proneness and guilt-proneness are negatively related to risky sexual behavior. But also demonstrates that the effects of shame-proneness are modified by alcohol dependence, with only those who are not as dependent on alcohol showing the relationship of shame-proneness and guilt-proneness to risky sexual behavior.

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  • Tangney, J. P., D. Mashek, and J. Stuewig. 2007. Working at the social-clinical-community-criminology interface: The George Mason University inmate study. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 26:1–21.

    DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2007.26.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A groundbreaking study in the moral emotions and rehabilitation. A longitudinal study following inmates during incarceration and up to one year after release. Shows how jail programs can reduce criminogenic beliefs and maladaptive feelings of guilt that can lead to reoffense.

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Four Influences

We use a systematic framework (see Huff and Barnard 2009 under Ethical Excellence in Science and Engineering) to survey the various influences on moral thought, emotion, and behavior. The four influences we review divide the literature in ways that do not correspond to the traditional subdisciplines of psychology but instead try systematically to cover the major categories of influence on moral action. They are not a process model like that of Narvaez and Rest 1995 (Contemporary Overviews) but a grouping of influences that interact with each other in any particular incident of moral action.

Personality

Personality traits have been shown to be partly heritable and related to various kinds of behavior, including prosocial and antisocial behavior (Ozer and Benet-Martínez 2006). Other individual differences that can be thought of as traits (e.g., empathy, impulsiveness) have been shown to have interesting and complex relationships with moral judgment and behavior. Personality psychologists have dealt with this complexity by breaking the general descriptor “personality” into various levels (McAdams 2009, Mischel 2004, and Dovidio 2006). The search for a unitary “moral personality” has ended in the conclusion that there are a variety of moral personalities instead (Hill and Roberts 2010 and Walker and Frimer 2007).

  • Dovidio, J. F. 2006. The social psychology of prosocial behavior. New York: Taylor and Francis.

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    A classic text on prosocial behavior by authors known for their work in this subdiscipline. Provides an excellent chapter reviewing literature on the personality correlates of prosocial behavior.

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  • Hill, P. L., and B. W. Roberts. 2010. Propositions for the study of moral personality development. Current Directions in Psychological Science 19.6: 380–383.

    DOI: 10.1177/0963721410389168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review that proffers six propositions to serve as a foundation for future research in the field of moral personality development. An integrative, inclusive framework for studying the moral personality.

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  • McAdams, D. P. 2009. The moral personality. In Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology. Edited by D. Narvaez and D. K. Lapsley, 11–29. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Reviews work in moral psychology as it pertains to the three levels of personality proposed by the author. The first level is the pattern of dispositional traits (such as conscientiousness) of the individual, the second is the individual’s characteristic adaptations to his or her environment (such as values and goals), and the third level is self-defining life narratives that not only bring coherence to the past but also propose future direction.

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  • Mischel, W. 2004. Toward an integrative science of the person. Annual Review of Psychology 55:1–22.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.042902.130709Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Walter Mischel was one of the original provocateurs of the “crisis in personality” based on empirical findings that people’s behavior is not consistent across diverse situations. Here he reviews this crisis, and his research provides a partial resolution in the proposal that personality inheres in the characteristic ways that an individual responds differently to different situations—as that individual perceives the relevance of those situations.

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  • Ozer, D. J., and V. Benet-Martínez. 2006. Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology 57.1: 401–421.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190127Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Classic review article of the correlates of the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience). Many of these correlates (e.g., criminal activity, volunteerism) are moral characteristics.

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  • Walker, L., and J. Frimer. 2007. Moral personality of brave and caring exemplars. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93.5: 845.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.5.845Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors examined the personality of a number of moral exemplars and found that personality variables together with moral cognition predict exemplary action. Themes embodied in their life narratives separated these exemplars from the control group. They reported more themes of agency and communion, were more likely to see life events as redemptive, identified more frequently with helpers in early life, and reported more-secure attachments.

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Integration of Morality into the Self

What provides the push or pull that motivates individuals to contemplate, plan, and accomplish those things we call moral action? The common aspect of most of the effective organizers of moral action (e.g., moral emotion, beliefs and values, life projects, personal strivings, and relationships) is the extent to which they implicate the self, or are integrated into self-systems (Aquino, et al. 2009 and Hardy and Carlo 2005). This integration is often called “identity” (McGregor and Little 1998). Several of the authors listed here track the development of these identity themes (Frimer and Walker 2009 and Hart 2005) and others provide evidence that, like personality, identity is not unitary: there can be multiple types of moral identity (Walker and Frimer 2009), and these can coexist in a single person (Hart 2005 and Lapsley 2008).

  • Aquino, K., D. Freeman, and A. Reed. 2009. Testing a social-cognitive model of moral behavior: The interactive influence of situations and moral identity centrality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97.1: 123–141.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0015406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents four studies that provide experimental evidence that increasing the accessibility of moral identity increases an individual’s intention to be moral and that individual’s moral behavior. It thus shows the central role that moral identity plays in moral action.

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  • Frimer, J. A., and L. J. Walker. 2009. Reconciling the self and morality: An empirical model of moral centrality development. Developmental Psychology 45.6: 1669–1681.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0017418Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The reconciliation model proposes that, for moral exemplars, the relationship between the self’s interests and moral concerns can transform from one of mutual competition to one of synergy. They become one and the same. The authors present research showing that this reconciliation of self-interest and moral concern can be detected in stories that people tell about themselves and that the reconciliation predicts moral behavior.

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  • Hardy, S. A., and G. Carlo. 2005. Identity as a source of moral motivation. Human Development 48.4: 232–256.

    DOI: 10.1159/000086859Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review paper of the theory and research that links moral identity to moral behavior and commitment. A broad, comprehensive review of the psychological literature.

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  • Hart, D. 2005. The development of moral identity. In Moral motivation through the life span. Edited by G. Carlo and C. P. Edwards, 165–196. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

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    Reviews the author’s research in the development of moral exemplars among adolescents in an urban environment and with longitudinal studies of national samples. It provides a theoretical structure that integrates the findings with other literature. Outcomes indicate that a focus on character may be misplaced, and instead that progress in moral identity formation can best be supported by the opportunity to participate in moral activities.

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  • Lapsley, D. K. 2008. Moral self-identity as the aim of education. In Handbook of moral and character education. Edited by L. P. Nucci and D. Narvaez, 30–52. New York: Routledge.

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    Excellent review of the literature on the self as it relates to morality. Summarizes a variety of models, some of which call into question the unity of the self and situate the moral self in interaction with the social ecology of the individual (e.g., Hart 2005).

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  • McGregor, I., and B. Little. 1998. Personal projects, happiness, and meaning: On doing well and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74:494–512.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.2.494Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A complex empirical study examining how individuals construct personal goals and how fulfillment of those goals relates to happiness and meaning. Provides a technique for classifying individuals according to identity themes that emerge from a systematic review of their personal projects. Different identity themes (e.g., agentic, communal, and hedonistic) are induced from the pattern of responses. Moral identity seems conspicuously absent.

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  • Walker, L. J., and J. A. Frimer. 2009. Moral personality exemplified. In Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology. Edited by D. Narvaez and D. K. Lapsley, 232–255. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Review of an innovative research program that seeks to establish the variety of ways that mature moral functioning can be expressed. The authors studied Canadians who won national awards for volunteering or for bravery and compared them with a matched sample. The work shows how moral exemplars can have strongly different personality profiles and suggests that “the good” is not univocal (see the same authors’ paper, Walker and Frimer 2007, in the Personality section).

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Moral Ecology

The idea of moral ecology allows us to look at the complex web of interactions between individuals and their environment over time that support or thwart moral action (Little, 1999). Particularly when we study individuals who take moral action over time, we find that their moral action is both constrained and facilitated by organizations and other aspects of their social environment. And it is often the goal of moral action to influence the moral ecology of an organization or some other aspect of the social environment. These moral ecologies exist at the level of personal relationships (Rusbult, et al. 2009), neighborhoods (Hart and Matsuba 2009), authority relations (Lammers, et al. 2010), organizations (Treviño, et al. 2006), physical environment (Wood, et al. 2005), and religion and culture (Narvaez, et al. 1999 and Shweder and Much 1997).

  • Hart, D., and M. K. Matsuba. 2009. Urban neighborhoods as contexts for moral identity development. In Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology. Edited by D. Narvaez and D. K. Lapsley, 214–231. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Review of research program on adolescent moral identity development in urban neighborhoods. Provides a good review of the resources (and lack thereof) in these neighborhoods to support moral identity and the interactions of the moral ecology with self-definition.

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  • Lammers, J., D. Stapel, and A. D. Galinsky. 2010. Power increases hypocrisy: Moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior. Psychological Science 21.5: 737–744.

    DOI: 10.1177/0956797610368810Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Series of studies that shows the interaction of power with morality. Four studies found that individuals with more power were more morally hypocritical, i.e., imposing strict moral standards on others but practicing less strict moral behaviors themselves. A final experiment gave subjects illegitimate power and reversed the effect, with subjects judging their own behavior more critically than that of other people.

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  • Little, B. 1999. Personal projects and social ecology: Themes and variation across the life span. In Action and self-development: Theory and research through the life span. Edited by J. Brandtstadter and R. Lerner, 169–220. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    Reviews work in a research program on how individuals construct meaning in interaction with the resources available in their environment. Provides a useful theoretical structure for how individuals might incorporate morality in their constructions of meaning. Integrates this work with a similar three-level structure to that in McAdams 2009 (cited in Personality): havings (traits), doings (projects), and being (narrative).

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  • Narvaez, D., I. Getz, and J. Rest. 1999. Individual moral judgment and cultural ideologies. Developmental Psychology 35.2: 478–488.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.35.2.478Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides evidence for how classical Kohlberg moral judgment (as measured by the Defining Issues Test [DIT]) combines with religious ideology and political identity to predict moral reasoning. For conceptually similar work see Graham, et al. 2009, cited in Deciding.

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  • Rusbult, C. E., E. J. Finkel, and M. Kumashiro. 2009. The Michelangelo phenomenon. Current Directions in Psychological Science 18:305–309.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01657.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews theory and research regarding the Michelangelo phenomenon: the documented effect in which close partners sculpt one another’s selves, shaping each other’s skills, traits, and goals.

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  • Shweder, R. A., and N. C. Much. 1997. The “big three” of morality (autonomy, community, and divinity) and the “big three” explanations of suffering. In Morality and health. Edited by A. M. Brandt and P. Rozin, 119–169. New York: Routledge.

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    The authors explore some of the ways humans understand suffering and turn suffering into advantage. They investigate the moral implications of imagining the world and the experience of suffering, using the moral metaphors of the United States and India. This paper is the source of a research program that incorporates cultural and religious influence on moral judgment and action.

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  • Treviño, L. K., G. R. Weaver, and S. J. Reynolds. 2006. Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management 32.6: 951–990.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206306294258Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive review of how organizational structure, environment, and process influence the ethical action of individuals and organizations. It follows the four-component model in Narvaez and Rest 1995 (cited in Contermporary Overviews) to systematize its review.

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  • Wood, W., L. Tam, and M. G. Witt. 2005. Changing circumstances, disrupting habits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88:918–933.

    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.6.918Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One study in a major research program that tracks how habits are formed, maintained, and lost. Shows that environmental stimulus triggers are crucial in maintaining habits by tracking an individual’s exercising, newspaper reading, and TV-watching habits as he or she transferred universities. Habits were maintained only when stimulus triggers were constant across the two environments.

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Moral Skills and Knowledge

The kindest description one might give of the morally committed incompetent is “well intentioned.” Led to some extent by applied work on moral action (Pritchard 1998 and Keefer and Ashley 2001), there is an emerging literature on the skills and knowledge that underlie the ability to successfully take moral action. Much of this is based on cognitive research in expertise (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 2004 and Narvaez and Lapsley 2005) and habit (Neal, et al. 2006). Some multidimensional models of moral action have begun to incorporate skill and knowledge as a central aspect (Hannah and Avolio 2010 and Narvaez 2010).

  • Dreyfus, H. L., and S. E. Dreyfus. 2004. The ethical implications of the five-stage skill-acquisition model. Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society 24:251–264.

    DOI: 10.1177/0270467604265023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Acting ethically involves skill. This article presents a five-stage skill acquisition model to argue that rule-based ethics is developmentally inferior to an ethic based on expert response. This cognitive-science-based virtue approach suggests that after long experience, the ethical expert learns to respond appropriately to each unique situation.

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  • Hannah, S. T., and B. J. Avolio. 2010. Moral potency: Building the capacity for character-based leadership. Consulting Psychology Journal 62:291–310.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0022283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes a construct-labeled moral potency. It consists of three elements: moral courage, moral efficacy, and moral ownership. All three are well integrated into psychological literatures. The element of moral efficacy is related to the acquisition of task-specific skills required for moral action.

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  • Keefer, M., and K. Ashley. 2001. Case-based approaches to professional ethics: A systematic comparison of students’ and ethicists’ moral reasoning. Journal of Moral Education 30.4: 377–398.

    DOI: 10.1080/03057240120094869Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This pivotal article provides a systematic analysis of the cognitive processes required for acquiring skill in practical ethical reasoning in a professional domain by contrasting the reasoning process of ethical experts and novices in a professional domain (computer science). Ethical experts, represented by philosophers in computing ethics, were more likely to use “intermediate level” specialized professional knowledge (e.g., informed consent), while novices were more likely to use generalized rules (e.g., utilitarian calculations).

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  • Narvaez, D. 2010. Moral complexity: The fatal attraction of truthiness and the importance of mature moral functioning. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5.2: 163–181.

    DOI: 10.1177/1745691610362351Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Here, Narvaez makes the argument that good reasoning and trained intuition together inform mature moral functioning, which comprises both habituated empathic concern and considered moral metacognition. This paper is published with a reply by Jonathon Haidt, the leading exponent of the idea that intuition is primary. Narvaez has a riposte in the same issue. All three are worth reading.

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  • Narvaez, D., and D. Lapsley. 2005. The psychological foundations of everyday morality and moral expertise. In Character psychology and character education. Edited by D. Lapsley and F. C. Power, 140–165. South Bend, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press.

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    An important essay that makes the case that most moral action can be treated as expertise. It reviews the relevant expertise literature and provides examples of how one can think of the skill aspect of moral action as expertise.

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  • Neal, D., W. Wood, and J. Quinn. 2006. Habits: A repeat performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science 15.4: 198.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00435.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Everyday people perform many actions that are initiated without intention, and these actions run to completion with minimal conscious control. This article reviews contemporary habit research and has strong implications for that aspect of moral psychology that is concerned with habitually good or bad acting.

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  • Pritchard, M. 1998. Professional responsibility: Focusing on the exemplary. Science and Engineering Ethics 4.2: 215–233.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11948-998-0052-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is one paper in a series by the philosopher Pritchard that explores ethical excellence among engineers. It is based in extensive interviews with nominated engineers and provides unique insights to the sorts of skill-based virtues (e.g., honesty, caring about documentation) that good engineers expect of each other.

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Three Processes

There are at least three parallel and interconnected levels of process that underlie moral action: Deciding, the processes of reasoning and cognitive control; Feeling, the processes of intuitive reaction and emotion; and Planning, the processes of long-term organization for moral action.

Deciding

There is substantial work in judgment and decision making (Aktipis and Kurzban 2004 and Beller 2010), cognitive control (Baumeister, et al. 2011; Dijksterhuis and Aarts 2010; Hofmann, et al. 2009; and Steinberg 2007), and in mental models (Graham, et al. 2009) that is relevant to conscious moral decision making. This area is in considerable flux, with the traditional emphasis on conscious process (Dijksterhuis and Aarts 2010; Baumeister, et al. 2011; and Alter, et al. 2007), rationalist models (Aktipis and Kurzban 2004), and even the independence of reason (Graham, et al. 2009 and Mercier and Sperber 2011) being questioned.

  • Aktipis, C. A., and R. O. Kurzban. 2004. Is Homo economicus extinct? Vernon Smith, Daniel Kahneman and the evolutionary perspective. In Advances in Austrian economics. Vol. 7, Evolutionary psychology and economic theory. Edited by R. Koppl, 135–153. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1529-2134(04)07007-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors make a strong claim that the historical conception of Homo economicus, a rational decision maker with perfect information and perfectly ordered preferences, is in the process of extinction. They review recent research that brings into question whether these assumptions reasonably reflect human thought and behavior.

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  • Alter, A. L., D. M. Oppenheimer, and N. Epley. 2007. Overcoming intuition: Metacognitive difficulty activates analytic reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 136.4: 569–576.

    DOI: 10.1037/0096-3445.136.4.569Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Humans appear to reason by the use of two processing styles: System 1 processes that are automatic and effortless and System 2 processes that are slow and analytical. System 2 processes appear to be activated by experiences of difficulty during automatic System 1 processing. This suggests a mechanism whereby moral intuition (System 1) can be corrected (or misled) by moral reasoning (System 2).

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  • Baumeister, R. F., E. J. Masicampo, and K. D. Vohs. 2011. Do conscious thoughts cause behavior? Annual Review of Psychology 62.1: 331–361.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.131126Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While it appears that humans have full conscious control of behavior, evidence of unconscious causation has suggested the view that conscious thoughts have little or no impact on behavior. This article reviews a wide range of studies that provide clear evidence for how and when conscious thought directs behavior. The effect of conscious thought appears to be often indirect and delayed, and it depends on interplay with unconscious processes.

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  • Beller, S. 2010. Deontic reasoning reviewed: Psychological questions, empirical findings, and current theories. Cognitive Processing 11.2: 123–132.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10339-009-0265-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Deontic reasoning focuses on the logic of the rules of ethics: whether actions are forbidden or permissible. This article provides an excellent, up-to-date review of empirical findings and psychological theories on deontic reasoning.

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  • Dijksterhuis, A., and H. Aarts. 2010. Goals, attention, and (un)consciousness. Annual Review of Psychology 61:467–490.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100445Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    People use goals as tools to engage in volitional behavior, and these goals appear to guide behavior through attention, not consciousness (two separable resources). Therefore, goal selection and guidance toward the goal can occur outside of a person’s awareness.

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  • Graham, J., J. Haidt, and B. A. Nosek. 2009. Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96.5: 1029–1046.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0015141Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Moral judgments appear to vary widely across the political spectrum. Graham, Haidt, and Nosek propose that five sets of moral foundations exist: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Differences were found in the degree of endorsement of these foundations between conservatives and liberals, with liberals showing greater endorsement of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, while conservatives used the five foundations more equally.

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  • Hofmann, W., M. Friese, and F. Strack. 2009. Impulse and self-control from a dual-systems perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science 4.2: 162–176.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01116.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article outlines a dual-system perspective of impulse and self-control and suggests a framework for the prediction of self-control outcomes. It provides a useful review of the literature on self-control and proposes a model that equally emphasizes the influences on the impulse and on the control.

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  • Mercier, H., and D. Sperber. 2011. Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34.2: 57–74.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X10000968Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions, much evidence shows that reasoning can often lead to poor decision making. This article argues that reasoning functions to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade and may well have evolved for that purpose.

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  • Steinberg, L. 2007. Risk taking in adolescence. Current Directions in Psychological Science 16.2: 55.

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    Presents a perspective on adolescent risk taking grounded in developmental neuroscience. The temporal gap between puberty, which pushes adolescents toward socially rewarded thrill seeking, and the slow maturation of the cognitive-control system (which regulates these impulses) makes risky behavior more likely during adolescence. Adolescents reason as well as adults (they often overthink things), but they do not exercise self-control as well.

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Feeling

The convergence of research on cognitive and emotional processes in the literature on two-process models and on emotion provides us with one of the main motivators of taking moral action: what has variously been called “moral emotions” or “moral intuitions.” In this section can be found work on moral emotion (Eisenberg 2000; Haidt 2003; Huebner, et al. 2009; and Tangney, et al. 2007), on moral intuition (Haidt 2001; Evans 2008; and Monin, et al. 2007), and on the relations between considered action and impulse (DeSteno 2009).

  • DeSteno, D. 2009. Social emotions and intertemporal choice: “Hot” mechanisms for building social and economic capital. Current Directions in Psychological Science 18.5: 280.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01652.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The choice between considered action and impulse is often framed as a choice between short-term costs and long-term gains. The solution to intertemporal choice dilemmas has usually been seen as requiring the control of emotions associated with immediate rewards. This article argues (with Hofmann, et al. 2009, cited in Deciding) that emotion can be recruited on both sides of the choice.

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  • Eisenberg, N. 2000. Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology 51.1: 665–697.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.665Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Eisenberg provides an early review of moral emotions, with an emphasis on developmental psychology. Scanning the various reviews of moral emotion listed in this section of the bibliography will convince the reader that what counts as a moral emotion is still being negotiated.

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  • Evans, J. S. B. T. 2008. Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology 59:255–278.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093629Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides the most comprehensive review of two-process theories. All theories have in common processes that are fast, automatic, and unconscious and are called “System 1” processes. Processes that are slow, deliberative, and conscious are called “System 2” processes. Given the diversity of models and effects, it seems that multiple processes, in contrast to only two processes, may provide a better fit to the phenomena.

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  • Haidt, J. 2001. The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review 108.4: 814–834.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.108.4.814Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this classic article Haidt proposes that moral reasoning does not cause moral judgment, rather, reasoning is usually a post-hoc construction that is generated after a judgment has been reached. The social intuitionist model emphasizes social and cultural influences on automatic processes (here, intuition) over private reasoning done by individuals.

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  • Haidt, J. 2003. The moral emotions. In Handbook of affective sciences. Edited by R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, and H. H. Goldsmith, 852–870. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Integrates the extensive emotion literature with the moral domain. Defines moral emotions as emotions that are linked to the welfare of society or other persons. This definition has been widely adopted. Categorizes them on dimensions of self versus other as the eliciting event and extent of prosocial action tendency produced. It then does a systematic survey of the emotions in this space.

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  • Huebner, B., S. Dwyer, and M. Hauser. 2009. The role of emotion in moral psychology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13.1: 1–6.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.09.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that there is not enough evidence to conclude that emotions are the primary source of intuitive moral judgment. The authors provide the useful service of suggesting several alternative models for the relation of emotion, reason, and judgment. Their review makes a clear case that no single model has enough data to support it in comparison to any other. We are thus still in the interesting stage of open theoretical contest.

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  • Monin, B., D. A. Pizarro, and J. S. Beer. 2007. Deciding versus reacting: Conceptions of moral judgment and the reason-affect debate. Review of General Psychology 11.2: 99–111.

    DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.11.2.99Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In reaction to the debate over the role of emotion and reason in moral judgment, this article provides the helpful suggestion that different approaches are often considering different prototypical cases of what they mean by moral judgment. The authors suggest three areas of research (moral temptation, moral self-image, and lay understandings of morality) as test beds for a properly broad theory of moral judgment.

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  • Tangney, J. P., J. Stuewig, and D. J. Mashek. 2007. Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology 58:345–372.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a broad review of current theory and research on moral emotions. More-traditional research concerning guilt and shame are reviewed and discussed, and several new areas of research concerning shame are highlighted. Recent research concerning positive emotions (e.g., elevation, gratitude, pride) is also reviewed.

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Planning

How do individuals coordinate and direct their actions over their lives? How do they coordinate outcomes with goals, sustain motivation, and modify goals over time as they shape their lives? The architecture of personality (Cervone 2005) is that of a goal-seeking and meaning-constructing individual, not simple static traits. Goals and meaning play a role in a kind of self-regulation that is much longer term (Boldero and Francis 2002; Cervone, et al. 2006; Lord, et al. 2010; and McAdams and Olson 2010) than the simple choice dilemmas that appear in Feeling. These goals are influenced and modified by the meaning structures individuals create (Little 2008 and McAdams and Olson 2010).

  • Boldero, J., and J. Francis. 2002. Goals, standards, and the self: Reference values serving different functions. Personality and Social Psychology Review 6:232–241.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0603_7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies two types of self-regulation: a present function and a goal function. The present function occurs when a reference value represents a desired state for the individual in the present context, while the goal function represents a desired state for the individual in the future. This is one psychological version of the “second order desires” in Frankfurt 1971 (see Philosophy).

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  • Cervone, D. 2005. Personality architecture: Within-person structures and processes. Annual Review of Psychology 56:423–452.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review of work on intra-individual personality structures and processes supports a conception of the individual as a “complex dynamic processing system.” It contains a critique of the inadequacies of the trait-conception of personality and instead focuses on within-person structures and processes. Cervone argues for the crucial importance of understanding intentionality—particularly beliefs, goals, and evaluative standards—in order to understand the coherence of action and reaction of the individual over time.

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  • Cervone, D., W. Shadel, and R. E. Smith. 2006. Self-regulation: Reminders and suggestions from personality science. Applied Psychology 55.3: 333–385.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2006.00261.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that the road to a general model of self-regulation may lie in understanding the particular individual, rather than abstracting a central tendency from across a large number of cases. The authors provide a wide-ranging review supporting their claim that the coherence of intra-individual processes both over the short and long term are the key to understanding how individuals navigate short-term tradeoffs and long-term goals.

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  • Little, B. 2008. Personal projects and free traits: Personality and motivation reconsidered. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2.3: 1235.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00106.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that human flourishing is contingent on a social ecology that supports the sustainable pursuit of personal projects over time. Proposes the concept of “free traits,” which is strategic behavior performed in the service of core projects that may differ from, and interact with, the trait-based understandings of personality.

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  • Lord, R. G., J. M. Diefendorff, A. M. Schmidt, and R. J. Hall. 2010. Self-regulation at work. Annual Review of Psychology 61:543–568.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100314Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes a complex model of self-regulation that can explain goal-based behavior within the work domain. Self-regulation ranges from possible selves, achievement tasks, and integrated task behaviors to behavioral components. Different levels can constrain each other because of goal conflicts or resources. Feedback loops occur as a mechanism of regulation. Suggests multiple avenues by which moral goals and constraints can influence work behavior.

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  • McAdams, D. P., and B. D. Olson. 2010. Personality development: Continuity and change over the life course. Annual Review of Psychology 61:517–542.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100507Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    McAdams describes the development of personality from three different standpoints: the person as actor (behaving), agent (striving), and author (narrating). Suggests avenues by which moral goals can influence personality, particularly at the agent and author levels.

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Four Contexts for Moral Psychology

Understanding moral psychology requires understanding its relationships to other contexts, its grounding in our biological nature, and its interactions with ethics and religion. These contexts provide us with an expanded domain for the work of moral psychology (e.g., by identifying the “loss of self” as a central part of personal growth) and bring their own insights to the processes and influences of moral psychology (e.g., the centrality of social processes in evolution and neuroscience).

Philosophy

The resurgence of virtue ethics (Annas 2006 and Morrow 2009) has required a renewed interest in a moral psychology that can explain the cultivation and expression of character (Frankfurt 1971 and Pincoffs 1971). Recent work in “naturalized ethics” by philosophers (Badhwar 1993; Doris and Stich 2005; Flanagan and Sarkissian 2008; Morrow 2009; and Nado, et al. 2009) often draws on psychological research and makes empirical claims.

  • Annas, J. 2006. Virtue ethics. In The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. Edited by D. Copp, 515–536. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A balanced review of the recent resurgence in virtue theory that covers some of the controversies, gives a historical perspective, and points toward how integration with the empirical sciences might be accomplished. See also the useful Oxford Bibliographies Online entry for “Virtue Ethics.”

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  • Badhwar, N. 1993. Altruism versus self-interest: Sometimes a false dichotomy. Social Philosophy and Policy 10.1: 90–117.

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    A useful article that dismantles the fetish for altruism in the search for morality. If the desire to help others has become incorporated into the self, then it makes sense that self-interest can be a moral motive.

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  • Doris, J., and S. Stich. 2005. As a matter of fact: Empirical perspectives on ethics. In The Oxford handbook of contemporary philosophy. Edited by Frank Jackson and Michael Smith, 114–152. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A succinct argument for the role of naturalized ethics. A large section is devoted to Doris and Stitch’s argument against character-based ethics, based on the social science evidence that character is largely inconsistent across situations (see Personality). Also includes a section on the philosophical puzzles of moral motivation and moral disagreement.

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  • Flanagan, O., and H. Sarkissian. 2008. Naturalizing ethics. In Moral psychology: The evolution of morality: Adaptations and innateness. Edited by W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 1–26. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Flanagan was one of the earliest participants in the movement to naturalize ethics, and this article provides an overview of the argument for why one might want to naturalize ethics. The authors also review and rebut a range of objections to the naturalistic project.

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  • Frankfurt, H. G. 1971. Freedom of the will and the concept of a person. The Journal of Philosophy 68.1: 5–20.

    DOI: 10.2307/2024717Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic article in which Frankfurt outlines the distinction between first- and second-order moral desires. First-order desires are desires to do a particular thing. Second-order desires are desires to want to desire something. This distinction is relevant to much of the work in the sections on personality, self, and acting.

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  • Morrow, D. 2009. Moral psychology and the “Mencian creature.” Philosophical Psychology 22.3: 281–304.

    DOI: 10.1080/09515080902970657Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The philosopher Morrow argues against most of the models of the role of emotion in Huebner, et al. 2009 (see Feeling) and in favor of a “Mencian” approach (named after the Confucian philosopher Mencius). In this approach, emotion is the cause of moral judgment, but because of the structure of moral emotion, moral judgment still represents principled distinctions.

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  • Nado, J., D. Kelly, and S. Stitch. 2009. Moral judgment. In The Routledge companion to philosophy of psychology. Edited by John Symonds and Paco Calvo, 621–633. London: Routledge.

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    A good example of how naturalizing philosophers are using empirical methods (either ones they implement themselves or results from other disciplines) to inform philosophical thinking in ethics. The authors here review multiple models of moral judgment, some from philosophers and others from psychologists, and compare them both to criteria of moral adequacy and to the empirical literature.

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  • Pincoffs, E. 1971. Quandry ethics. Mind & Language 80:552–571.

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    Pincoffs bemoans the focus in philosophical ethics on resolving moral dilemmas that are primarily designed to show differences among various meta-ethical positions rather than to enlighten our understanding of the best ways to be and become moral.

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Religion

There are reasonably strong psychological and anthropological literatures that can help us look at the complex relationship between morality and religion (or, at least, religion as it is practiced in places where the research has been done—primarily Christian and Hindu countries). There is research on the relationship of religion to moral behavior (reviewed in Graham and Haidt 2010 and Hood, et al. 2009), to violence (Ginges, et al. 2009), and to self-regulation (McCullough and Willoughby 2009). In addition, some insights from religion pose challenges to the preoccupations of the psychological literature (Augustine 1986).

  • Augustine, M. 1986. Zen and Benedictine monks as mythopoeic models of nonegocentered worldviews and lifestyles. Buddhist-Christian Studies 6:23–49.

    DOI: 10.2307/1390130Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comparative qualitative study of Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu monastic practice. All approaches share a systematic, practiced renunciation of self-centeredness in action and thought. The cross-cultural similarity suggests something universal in the process and experience. The centrality of this nonegocentric way of life poses a puzzle for the current psychology of morality, which depends on a particular kind of self-process and self-constructed goal orientation.

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  • Ginges, J., I. Hansen, and Ara Norenzayan. 2009. Religion and support for suicide attacks. Psychological Science 20.2: 224–230.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02270.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two surveys showing that attendance at religious services (coalitional commitment) positively predicted support for suicide attack and out-group hostility, but regular prayer (religious devotion) did not. Another thoughtful contribution to parsing the relation between religion and violence.

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  • Graham, J., and J. Haidt. 2010. Beyond beliefs: Religions bind individuals into moral communities. Personality and Social Psychology Review 14:140–150.

    DOI: 10.1177/1088868309353415Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review article that challenges the received wisdom that the content of individual religious belief is what explains religious behavior. Graham and Haidt instead suggest that it is being bound into a moral community that is the key to increased charitable giving, for example. Thus, belief systems do have an effect, but it is shared belief systems, through the binding functions of group membership.

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  • Hood, R. W., P. Hill, and B. Spilka. 2009. The psychology of religion. New York: Guilford.

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    Likely the best review of the empirical literature in psychology of religion. Chapter 12 provides comprehensive coverage of religion and morality.

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  • McCullough, M., and B. Willoughby. 2009. Religion, self-regulation, and self-control: Associations, explanations, and implications. Psychological Bulletin 135.1: 69–93.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0014213Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Wide-ranging review proposing that religion positively influences goal selection, goal pursuit, and goal management and thereby positively influences self-regulation and self-control. Covers research in Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish religions.

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Evolution

Our emotions, our rationality, and thus our morality are grounded in our evolutionary history as a social species (Byrne and Whiten 1988). The evolution of social strategies (e.g., cooperation, competition, deception) (Buss, et al. 1990); of the moral emotions (de Waal 2008 and Goetz, et al. 2010); of social sanctions (Sober and Wilson 1999), conscience, and moral judgment (Krebs 2008); and of the capacity for culture and cultural norms (McElreath 2010 and Richerson, et al. 2010) all help us understand the deeply social nature of morality. Schmitt and Pilcher 2004 helps us evaluate these propositions by laying out a framework for making a successful evolutionary argument.

  • Buss, D. M., M. Abbott, and A. Angleitner, et al. 1990. International preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 21.1: 5–47.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022022190211001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A classic study that established sexual selection as an important influence in human behavior. The authors examine mate preferences across thirty-three countries worldwide. Multiple regression models revealed strong cultural variation in behavior as well as strong cross-cultural sex-based differences.

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  • Byrne, R. W., and A. Whiten. 1988. Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Classic text that proposed the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis: that the intelligence of the human species is rooted in the need to navigate complicated group hierarchies and interrelationships.

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  • de Waal, F. B. M. 2008. Putting the altruism back into altruism: The evolution of empathy. Annual Review of Psychology 59.1: 279–300.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093625Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Empathy-induced altruism derives its strength from the emotional stake it offers the self in the other’s welfare. Empathy thus becomes the ideal mechanism to underlie altruism in response to another’s distress. An empirical and theoretical review by one of the preeminent primatologists working on moral psychology.

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  • Goetz, J. L., D. Keltner, and E. Simon-Thomas. 2010. Compassion: An evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin 136.3: 351–374.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0018807Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A wide-ranging review of three evolutionary arguments that converge on the hypothesis that compassion evolved as a distinct affective experience whose primary function is to facilitate cooperation and protection of the weak and those who suffer. Considerations of how compassion shapes moral judgment are also discussed.

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  • Krebs, D. 2008. Morality: An evolutionary account. Perspectives on Psychological Science 3.3: 149.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00072.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Morality originated in deferential, cooperative, and altruistic “social instincts,” or decision-making strategies that enabled humans to maximize their gains from social living and resolve their conflicts in adaptive ways. Understanding how the early, evolved mechanisms in the old brain and recently evolved mechanisms in the new brain are activated and interact helps us see structure in how people make moral decisions.

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  • McElreath, R. 2010. The coevolution of genes, innovation and culture in human evolution. In Mind the gap: Tracing the origins of human universals. Edited by P. M. Kappeler and J. B. Silk, 451–474. Berlin: Springer.

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    An excellent overview of the structure and process of gene-culture coevolution. Makes useful connections to the literature of the gene-culture coevolution of cooperation.

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  • Richerson, P. J., R. Boyd, and J. Henrich. 2010. Gene-culture coevolution in the age of genomics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:8985–8992.

    DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0914631107Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Culture normally evolves more rapidly than genes, creating new environments that expose genes to new selective pressures. This article examines several environmental factors that have affected gene evolution, including possible genetic response to the novel social environment of contemporary modern society.

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  • Schmitt, D. P., and J. J. Pilcher. 2004. Evaluating evidence of psychological adaptation: How do we know one when we see one? Psychological Science 15.10: 643–649.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00734.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a heuristic framework for integrating and evaluating evidence of evolutionary adaption. It shows just how high one must set the bar for a complete evolutionary argument that a particular psychological characteristic (such as empathy) is an evolutionary adaptation. It also provides examples of literatures that have achieved this high standard (and some that have not).

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  • Sober, E., and D. S. Wilson. 1999. Unto others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Classic argument defending group selection as a mechanism that can support the evolution of unselfish behavior. Group selection is still controversial, and those engaging in the debate will usually cite this work.

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Neuroscience

Physiological mechanisms underlie the judgments required to produce moral emotions (Barrett 2009), the felt experience of that emotion (Iacoboni 2009), and the involuntary, the habitual, and the strategic actions in response to that emotion (Heatherton 2011). This interaction of systems is geared in part toward the successful negotiation of the social milieu humans find themselves inhabiting (Adolphs 2009 and Rilling and Sanfey 2011). An important issue is whether it is the separation of reason and emotion (Greene and Haidt 2002) or their extensive interconnection (Blakemore and Choudhury 2006 and Moll, et al. 2009) that is the central aspect of moral judgment and action.

  • Adolphs, R. 2009. The social brain: Neural basis of social knowledge. Annual Review of Psychology 60:693–716.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163514Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Human social cognition has a neural basis divided into processes that are driven by automatic reaction to stimuli, verses processes that are more deliberate and consciously controlled. This article provides a broad overview of these processes and ways to relate these to data from functional neuroimaging.

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  • Barrett, L. F. 2009. The future of psychology: Connecting mind to brain. Perspectives on Psychological Science 4.4: 326–339.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01134.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Psychological states and brain states are both real phenomena, yet they are not real in the same way, creating the mind-brain correspondence problem. This article presents a possible solution to this problem by examining complex cognition as comprising a set of more-primitive ingredients represented in the brain. Provides a way of thinking about the relationship of emotion and cognition to moral behavior.

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  • Blakemore, S. J., and S. Choudhury. 2006. Development of the adolescent brain: Implications for executive function and social cognition. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 47.3–4: 296–312.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01611.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews histological and brain-imaging studies that have demonstrated specific changes in neural architecture during puberty and adolescence. The lagging brain development of executive function, when paired with the accelerated development of the reward structures linked to social engagement during adolescence, helps to explain the impulsivity of adolescents. Possible applications for education and social policy are considered.

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  • Greene, J., and J. Haidt. 2002. How (and where) does moral judgment work? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 6.12: 517–523.

    DOI: 10.1016/S1364-6613(02)02011-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a review of the state of the art (at the time) of the neuroscience of moral judgment. Moral psychology has historically focused on reasoning, but recent research suggests that emotion and affective intuition play a much larger role in one’s decision making than previously thought.

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  • Heatherton, T. F. 2011. Neuroscience of self and self-regulation. Annual Review of Psychology 62.1: 363–390.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131616Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews recent social neuroscience research on the four psychological components that support the human capacity for self-regulation. Self-regulation requires people to be aware of their behavior, to understand how others are reacting to their behavior, to detect threats in complex social situations, and to resolve discrepancies between self-knowledge and social expectations or norms. All these are fundamental to social influence regarding moral norms in society.

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  • Iacoboni, M. 2009. Imitation, empathy, and mirror neurons. Annual Review of Psychology 60.1: 653–670.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163604Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Social psychological research has demonstrated that imitation and mimicry facilitate empathy. Neuroscience investigations have found physiological mechanisms of mirroring at single-cell and neural-system levels that support the research on imitation. The author proposes that neural mirroring solves the “problem of other minds” and makes intersubjectivity possible.

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  • Moll, J., R. de Oliveira-Souza, and R. Zahn. 2009. Neuroscience and morality: Moral judgments, sentiments, and values. In Personality, identity, and character: Explorations in moral psychology. Edited by D. Narvaez and D. K. Lapsley, 106–135. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An important, recent review of a central research program. Provides an overview of research that is beginning to track the brain process associated with moral judgment and action. One clear implication of this work is that we should refrain from citing specific brain areas that are involved in moral judgment and action. We should begin to look for patterns among various areas as they unfold over time.

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  • Rilling, J. K., and A. G. Sanfey. 2011. The neuroscience of social decision-making. Annual Review of Psychology 62.1: 23–48.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131647Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Social decision making has a neural basis. This article examines the neural mechanisms of many social decisions, such as trust, reciprocity, altruism, fairness, revenge, and social punishment, among others. Neural systems that are involved in pain and pleasure are discussed, since they have social implications. Also highlights the role of the prefrontal cortex in making prudent social decisions.

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LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199828340-0038

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