The 'moral emotions': in morality and criminal cognition

Bennett, Kristle-Louise (2012) The 'moral emotions': in morality and criminal cognition. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Emotion is believed to motivate and regulate moral conduct (Walker and Pitts, 1998), and deficits in this area are thought to motivate moral disengagement, and therefore criminality (Boutellier and Boutellier, 2002). Although criminology has established this, little or no research exists which explores the role of emotions and morality in criminality further, and which consolidates these results into a practical recommendation (Hosser et al, 2008). This research primarily tests the relationship between the ‘Moral Emotions’ (Ekman, 1992) shame, guilt and empathy, and how levels of these within participants, may change dependent on whether a judgement involves a criminal or non-criminal scenario, and whether this crime is seen to be victimless, or victim identified.
    Thirty participants recruited from an opportunity sample were asked to complete two standardised tests, in order to measure their baseline levels of shame, guilt and empathy. They then completed questionnaires (devised by myself, the researcher) relating to five moral scenarios (some of which were from Kohlberg, 1984). Items within these questionnaires measured shame, guilt and empathy individually.
    With few exceptions, it was found that participants experienced higher levels of shame, guilt and empathy in relation to a criminal scenario, rather than a noncriminal one. Secondly, in the case of shame particularly, participants experienced higher emotive levels when responding to a scenario whereby the victim was identified, rather than a scenario whereby the crime was perceived as victimless.
    Patterns of shame, guilt and empathy in successive moral judgements which relate to criminality, may have practical implications in the theoretical knowledge currently surrounding criminality and offending. Indeed, results provide a niche for further research, a solution to the current aetiological crisis facing criminology (Young, 1986), and new options regarding rehabilitative methods.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2013 14:52
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:13

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