Morality and Emotions

  • Sarah K. HarknessEmail author
  • Steven Hitlin
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Sociologists have long considered morality to be a core aspect of social life, though direct interest in the topic has waxed and waned in the past century. Research in this area has been increasing over the past decade, however, especially as cognitive disciplines highlight the importance of emotions for understanding moral development, moral action, and the power of moral codes to circumscribe individual functioning. This chapter summarizes these parallel bodies of work as they can inform sociological understanding of emotions and their cultural milieu. We begin with a brief overview of the extant research on the role emotions play in cognitive processing and decision making. We then discuss the universality and cultural specificity of moral emotions before tracing arguments about the cultural moral systems that, often implicitly, shape individual moral feeling, and conclude with a call for more sociological research on the cultural facets of moral emotions.


Morality Moral emotions Culture Dual-Process models Neuroscience 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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