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Manipulations Of Emotional Context Shape Moral Judgment

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Manipulations Of Emotional Context Shape Moral Judgment

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Manipulations Of Emotional Context Shape Moral Judgment

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Moral reasoning is the thought process which aims at assessing whether an idea is right or wrong. The concept describes the behaviour suitable for human beings. Moral rationale begins in children at a young age. As the children grow, their thinking evolves allowing them to identify what is right or wrong using logic. Psychologists explain that the concept affects a person’s daily process. That is every day an individual faces dilemmas such as whether to lie about an issue or not. In most cases, the person making decisions based on the potential consequences of their actions or their moral obligation.
The primary role of moral reasoning is to choose the most suitable choice; however, harmful outcomes may occur. A moral choice maximises the benefits for all parties – this type of thinking is the utilitarian judgment. The concept serves the greater majority and may have negative implications for the few minorities. A different kind of moral argument is the deontological judgment. The experience differs from utilitarian in that it upholds a person’s rights and duties. Notably, the practical understanding relies on the information-general process from working memory.  Some moral dilemmas create conflict between two types of moral reasoning. In such cases, the argument depends on the strength of each source.
In a scientific study, various methods allow psychologists to manipulate the output strength of each system. For practical reasoning (System 1), psychologists introduce a simultaneous task to gain resources from the normal reasoning process. The two mental functions reduce the possibility of a functional outcome – this is the load item situation. The three articles taken for this study are Greene et al. (2008), Conway and Gawronski (2013) and Greene (2007)
According to (Conway and Gawronski, 2013) negative feelings raise the probability of a deontological result.
On the other hand, positive emotions increase the possibility of a functional outcome. Dual-process theories related to moral judgment explain that responses to dilemma rely on two moral values: the principle of utilitarianism and the law of deontology. The principle of deontology suggests that the morality of a behaviour or action relies on intrinsic factors within the person. In contrast, the principle of utilitarianism explains that the extent of an act depends on its consequences. For instance, a lot of people avoid actions which may harm them or others.
The practical relevance of this study is vast. In recent years, moral decisions have increasingly gained prominence in the field of science and technology. For instance, software engineers must instruct a robot if there is a choice between the patient’s safety and damage to electrical appliances in a surgery room. The nature and frequency of such occurrences are likely to increase in the future.
Green et al. (2008) suggest that different accounts of reasoning have been developed over the years. Examples include the analytical system (system 2: information-general processing) and the emotionally intuitive system (information-specific). According to Green et al. (2008), the system 1 supports the processing domain for deontological reasoning while system 2 provides the area responsible for utilitarian judgment. At times, conflicts occur in the functionality of order 1 and 2. In such cases, the outcome depends on the stronger system. Mode 1 is automatic, and the output is intuitive. However, it relies on emotional information, especially negative feelings. The study explains that the cognitive load interferes with the practical reasoning. However, the cognitive load applied in the Greene et al. (2008) study was a constant recognition activity. That is, it involves pressing a button every time the number “5” appeared on display. In this case, system two directly relates to controlled processing.
Additionally, the unit produces the deontological judgment and upholds the person’s rights. That is, it involves monitored attention and current intentionality. The group is resource demanding and analytical. Notably, system 1 produces practical reasoning and can be applied for moral judgment and any other type of thinking.
Greene et al. (2007) provide clinical examples which support the dual-process theory. The study obtains the findings from observing the functional responses of VMPFC patients. One of the results is that the cognitive load interferes with the utilitarian moral judgment. For instance, negative emotions may influence a patient to disapprove of suicide. On the other hand, inducing a positive feeling may inspire the patient to give a more useful response. According to Greene et al. (2008) VMPFC patients provide more possible reactions because their actions are self-serving – this explains why they mainly experience positive emotions. However, VMPFC patients who lack the emotional responses, require utilitarian moral control.
This study aims at examining earlier findings on the reduction in deontological resources and implications of the adverse effect. Further, it identifies the mental architecture in which positive emotions have an impact on system 1 or system two by analysing theoretical and empirical information related to the experiment.
The study was practical. An online test was conducted using the Qualtrics software. The research involves 60 participants divided into three groups depending on the effect condition; that is neutral, positive or negative. Depending on the effect group, the participants underwent different affect conditions. For instance, 20 individuals participated in the positive affect condition experiment. Additionally, each group faced two load conditions and the outcomes collected. The responses were obtained from each group and between groups.
Initially, the participants underwent a test to identify how they respond to affect conditions; and the overall accuracy of the load task.  The researcher also created a means of manipulating the cognitive load. That is, the study only enlisted participants who were accurate in recalling four digits on the five or six trials. The research also collected the patient’s demographic information such as age and sex. The study employed twelve moral dilemmas, with six involving a secondary activity (load items) and six involving no secondary task (no load). Each dilemma situation required a Yes or No response, depending on the participant’s deontological or utilitarian judgments.
The participants completed the pre – PANAS before undergoing the stages enlisted for each dilemma. The researcher randomised the difficulties for each participant. The first stage was the effect condition. At this stage, each group reviewed a short audio-visual presentation depending on the effect condition; positive, negative or neutral. The Sudoku represented a neutral affect level, with a Mr Bean picture denoting a positive emotion level. In the second stage, the six load items participants memorised four numbers. At the third stage, the dilemmas were presented on a screen, and the participants asked to report their judgment as a Yes or No. The responses resembling a practical choice were taken for each load level. In the last stage, the six load items participants were asked to recall the four digits in serial order. The researcher recorded the accuracy of their responses to estimate the load manipulation.  
The experimental study was accurate; that is, only participants who could recall the digits on five of six trials were included. The findings were recorded for each affect groups, and comparisons on the load and no load participants conducted. The pre-PANAS helped identify the participants who were responsive to affect conditions – this increased the accuracy of the findings. The table, Table 1 enlists the conclusions of the experimental study.
Load Item Participants
From Table 1, participants in the neutral affect condition showed no response to positive or negative emotions during the study; that is, the mean utilitarian reactions was zero (0.00 units). At the adverse affect condition, 20 participants showed a decrease in positive emotions (-7.15 units) and an increase in negative emotions (9.00 units). The 20 participants in the favourable affect condition displayed an increase in positive emotions and a significant decrease in negative emotions – that is, the utilitarian responses were 5.90 units.
No load Item Participants
Table 1 indicates that the participants in the neutral affect condition (mean = 3.55) produced more utilitarian responses compared to those at the adverse affect condition (2.45), with t (38) = 2.31 and p = 0.05. Another observation is that under the favourable affect conditions (4.50), the utilitarian responses were higher than under the neutral affect conditions (3.55). At the neutral affect conditions, the number of functional reactions at load (2.35) is lower than at no load (3.55).
The study results indicate that the experiment worked – based on the affect manipulations and data recorded. The primary role of the pre-PANAS test is to determine whether the effect conditions influenced the participants (Conway and Gawronski, 2013). In this way, the test ensured it recorded accurate data. During the study, the participants under the neutral affect conditions showed minimal change for the pre- to post-PANAS tests. However, a significant change occurred for affect groups exposed to positive or negative emotions. The load accuracy for the neutral condition is also higher compared to other states – this is because the number of utilitarian responses was zero.
From Table 1, participants exposed to the adverse affect condition showed a maximum increase in the negative PANAS measure and a low change in the positive test – this is because the number of positive responses obtained when a person undergoes a negative experience is low (Valdesolo & DeSteno, 2006). Notably, participants undergoing the positive affect displayed a maximum increase in the practical measures with a small change in negative emotions.
From Figure 1, the neutral, negative or positive emotions were higher for the load item participants than for the no-load item participants – this is because the load participants a secondary task interrupted the ordinary moral reasoning. And therefore, the load manipulation was low. Figure 1 supports the validity of this study in that it comprehends previous literature on the subject.  From the chart, the mean utilitarian responses to the adverse affect condition are higher compared to the neutral affect condition.
Another analysis tool is the t-test value. According to (Green, 2007) the t-test for independent samples allows researchers to compare responses of one group to another. From calculation, the t-test for no-load neutral effect is t (38) = 2.31. Under no load, the utilitarian responses for negative affect conditions (2.45) are lower compared to those under the neutral affect condition (3.55). In this case, the t-test for the independent samples compares to those generated by the effect groups.
For the no-load item participants, the neutral affect condition generated more responses compared to the adverse affect condition, with t (38) = 2.31 and p 
Under the positive affect condition, the number of useful responses (4.50) was higher than those under the neutral affect conditions (3.55) – this is because positive affect creates happiness. Psychologists argue that happiness is a situation of pleasure and absence of pain. In this case, the t-test value, t (38) = 2.25 and the p statistic, p = 0.31. Notably, the difference between the positive and negative affect conditions is significant. Greene (2007) explains that the primary role of practical reasoning is to make life better by increasing happiness and pleasure while reducing pain and unhappiness. The number of utilitarian responses at no load (3.55) is higher compared to the load items (2.35) – this is because, at no load, there is one reasoning task and no secondary activity. In this case, the practical reasoning focusses on which action best suits the individual or the group.
One of the assumptions is that altering cognitive load does not increase or reduce the likelihood of creating a utilitarian response. Greene et al. (2008) denote that changing the cognitive load creates an interference on the practical reasoning; however, the impact is small. I do not see any problem with the design or materials – this is because the responses rely on the effect condition.  Using a range of moral dilemmas was a good idea because it improves the accuracy of the research. No other uncontrolled values favour S1 or S2 reasoning.
Valdesolo, P., and DeSteno, D. (2006). Manipulations of emotional context shape moral judgment. Psychological Science, 17(6), 476-477.
Conway, P., and Gawronski, B. (2013). Deontological and utilitarian inclinations in moral decision making: A process dissociation approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 216-235.
Green, J. (2007). Why are VMPFC patients more utilitarian? A dual-process theory of moral. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(8), 322-323.
Green, J. et al. (2008). Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition, 107(3), 1144-1154.

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