The Influence of Anger on Ethical Decision Making: Comparison of a Primary and Secondary Appraisal

Ethics and Behavior 21 (5):380 - 403 (2011)
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Abstract

Higher order cognitive processes, including ethical decision making (EDM), are influenced by the experiencing of discrete emotions. Recent research highlights the negative influence one such emotion, anger, has on EDM and its underlying processes. The mechanism, however, by which anger disrupts the EDM has not been investigated. The current study sought to discover whether cognitive appraisals of an emotion-evoking event are the driving mechanisms behind the influence of anger on EDM. One primary (goal obstacle) and one secondary (certainty) appraisal of anger were examined. Study results suggest that appraisals of certainty are the driving mechanism behind the negative relationship between anger and EDM. Certainty appraisals led to less application of EDM-promoting strategies and more unethical social motives. Findings further highlight the value of investigating appraisals of emotional events, given their cognitive nature, for their potential effects on cognitive operations, such as EDM. Future directions and implications are discussed

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