Sound Judgment

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Science  15 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6121, pp. 739
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6121.739-c

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Immanuel Kant


A centuries-old line of thinking by moral philosophers has linked judgments about moral character to emotions. Contemporary psychological research has provided an experimental basis for these ideas, although the precise mapping of emotions onto morality has not always been established. Seidel and Prinz have been able to demonstrate this by using auditory stimuli that selectively activate the distinct emotional channels of anger—via harshly dissonant music—and disgust—via the sounds of a person vomiting. After a short listening session, people were then presented with scenarios describing violations of autonomy—in which a person was harmed, as in a robbery—or violations of purity—in which cultural norms rendered some actions unnatural. They observed that evoking anger increased the severity with which people judged violations of autonomy but not those of purity, whereas eliciting disgust yielded higher ratings for the latter and not the former kind of moral transgression.

Cognition 127, 1 (2013).

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