Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anger as a moral emotion: A 'bird's eye view' systematic review

Tim Lomas
Counseling Psychology Quarterly


Anger is common problem for which counseling/psychotherapy clients seek help, and is typically regarded as an invidious negative emotion to be ameliorated. However, it may be possible to reframe anger as a moral emotion, arising in response to perceived transgressions, thereby endowing it with meaning. In that respect, the current paper offers a ‘bird’s eye’ systematic review of empirical research on anger as a moral emotion (i.e., one focusing broadly on the terrain as a whole, rather than on specific areas). Three databases were reviewed from the start of their records to January 2019. Eligibility criteria included empirical research, published in English in peer-reviewed journals, on anger specifically as a moral emotion. 175 papers met the criteria, and fell into four broad classes of study: survey-based; experimental; physiological; and qualitative. In reviewing the articles, this paper pays particular attention to: how/whether anger can be differentiated from other moral emotions; antecedent causes and triggers; contextual factors that influence or mitigate anger; and outcomes arising from moral anger. Together, the paper offers a comprehensive overview of current knowledge into this prominent and problematic emotion. The results may be of use to counsellors and psychotherapists helping to address anger issues in their clients.

Download the paper here.

Note: Other "symptoms" in mental health can also be reframed as moral issues.  PTSD is similar to Moral Injury.  OCD is highly correlated with scrupulosity, excessive concern about moral purity.  Unhealthy guilt is found in many depressed individuals.  And, psychologists used forgiveness of self and others as a goal in treatment.

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