Affect, Culture, and Morality, Or Is It Wrong to Eat Your Dog?

Are disgusting or disrespectful actions judged to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as cleaning one's toilet with a flag) were presented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children of high and low socioeconomic status (N = 360). Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention or of personal preference. Most other Ss, especially in Brazil, took a moralizing stance toward these actions. For these latter Ss, moral judgments were better predicted by affective reactions than by appraisals of harmfulness. Results support the claims of cultural psychology (R.A. Shweder, 1991a) and suggest that cultural norms and culturally shaped emotions have a substantial impact on the domain of morality and the process of moral judgment. Suggestions are made for building cross-culturally valid models of moral judgment.
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