How do feelings affect moral standards?


Research Group of the department of General and Biological Psychology at Technische Universität Chemnitz

Moral emotions (and moral judgments) are ubiquitous features of social interaction. We decide quickly and intuitively whether an action is morally right or wrong (Haidt, 2003; Weiner, 2006). Following Heider (1958), these decisions are based on at least three criteria: (1) considerations of the universal moral standard of a person’s goal, (2) goal-attainment, and (3) effort. Our research topics focus on antecedents as well as behavioral consequences of moral emotions:
  • Cognitive Antecedents of Moral Emotions: Responsibility, Perceived morality of actions, Considerations of Right vs. Wrong, Goal-attainment, Effort and Ability
  • Moral Emotions and Subsequent Behavior: Help-giving, granting benefits, reward, punishment
  • Functional Value of Moral Emotions: The signal function of moral emotions, continuation vs. change of behaviors (stop vs. go signals)
  • Specific Moral Emotions and Specific Contexts: Schadenfreude and Sympathy in Children, Differences and Similarities between Shame & Guilt as well as Sympathy & Schadenfreude, Autobiographical Recollections of Moral Emotions, Behavioral Consequences of Negative Moral Observer Emotions (anger, indignation, contempt), Distinction between Moral and Non-Moral Emotions
  • Moral Emotions and Personality: Psychopathy, empathy, perfectionism
  • Physiological Correlates of Moral Emotions and Subsequent Behaviors: Cognitive effort, approach vs. avoidance motivation, patterns of cortical activation, event-related potentials

Research Methods

  • Thought experiments
  • Scenario-based interviews
  • Autobiographical recollections
  • Picture stories
  • Reaction times
  • Skin conductance level
  • Heart rate
  • EEG



Körner, A., Tscharaktschiew, N., Schindler, R., Schulz, K., & Rudolph, U. (2016). The everyday moral judge - Autobiographical recollections of moral emotions.PLOS ONE11(12), e0167224. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0137669

Körner, A., Schössow, F., & Rudolph, U. (2016). Emotional disapproval - Cognitive and social determinants of anger, indignation, and contempt. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Körner, A., Schindler, R., & Hahnemann, T. (in press). How moral emotions affect the probability of relapse. In P. A. Granhag, R. Bull, A. Shaboltas, & E. Dozortseva (Eds.),Psychology and law in Europe: When West meets East. New York: CRC Press.

Schindler, R., Körner, A., Bauer, S., Hadji, S., & Rudolph, U. (2015). Causes and Consequences of Schadenfreude and Sympathy: A Developmental Analysis. PLoS ONE, 10 (10), e0137669. doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0137669

Rudolph, U., & Tscharaktschiew, N. (2014). An attributional analysis of moral emotions: Naïve scientists and everyday judges.Emotion Review, 6(4). 1-9. doi: 10.1177 / 1754073914534507

Charaktschiev, N. (2014).Actions and outcomes: The evaluative function of moral emotions. Technical University: Chemnitz.

Rudolph, U., Schulz, K., & Tscharaktschiew, N. (2013). The moral emotions: An analysis guided by Heider’s naive action analysis.International Journal of Advances in Psychology, 2(2), 69-92.

Schulz, K., Rudolph, A., Tscharaktschiew, N., & Rudolph, U. (2013). Daniel has fallen into a muddy puddle - Schadenfreude or sympathy ?.British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Dec.(4), 363-378. doi: 10.1111 / bjdp.12013.

Schulz, K. (2011).Moral emotions. Technical University: Chemnitz.

Rudolph, U., Roesch, S. C., Greitemeyer, T., & Weiner, B. (2004). A meta-analytic review of help-giving and aggression from an attributional perspective: Contributions to a general theory of motivation.Cognition and Emotion18(6), 815-848. doi: 10.1080 / 02699930341000248