Who is more utilitarian? Negative affect mediates the relation between control deprivation and moral judgment

  • Tianran Li
  • Fengqing Zhao
  • Guoliang YuEmail author


This research tried to examine the effect of sense of control on moral judgments and the mediating roles of positive and negative affect. Sixty-one Chinese college students were randomly assigned to control-deprivation group and non-control deprivation group. After finishing an unsolvable “concept-formation task”, in which control deprivation was manipulated, participants rated sense of control, affective states, and made judgments in personal and impersonal moral dilemmas. Results showed that individuals in control deprivation condition were more likely to make utilitarian judgment in personal moral dilemmas rather than impersonal dilemmas. Furthermore, the negative affective states caused by control deprivation mediate the relationship between control deprivation and utilitarian moral judgment. Taken together, these results support dual-process model of moral judgment and control motivation theory.


Moral judgment Control deprivation Emotion Utilitarian 



The authors would like to thank Research Institute in Humanities and Social Sciences of the Ministry of Education (19YJC190031), National Natural Science Foundation of China (81571337), Youth Teacher Initial Funding in Zhengzhou University (32220389) for funding this research.We thank the two anonymous reviewers who helped us improve the manuscript. No financial interest and conflict exist in present research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Center for School Curriculum and Textbook DevelopmentMinistry of EducationBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of EducationZhengzhou UniversityZhengzhouChina
  3. 3.School of EducationRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  4. 4.Institute of PsychologyRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina

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