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
Showing posts with label Anger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anger. Show all posts

Monday, May 1, 2023

Take your ethics and shove it! Narcissists' angry responses to ethical leadership

Fox, F. R., Smith, M. B., & Webster, B. D. (2023). 
Personality and Individual Differences, 204, 112032.


Evoking the agentic model of narcissism, the present study contributes to understanding the nuanced responses to ethical leadership that result from the non-normative, dark personality trait of narcissism. We draw from affective events theory to understand why narcissists respond to ethical leadership with feelings of anger, which then results in withdrawal behaviors. We establish internal validity by testing our model via an experimental design. Next, we establish external validity by testing our theoretical model in a field study of university employees. Together, results from the studies suggest anger mediates the positive relationship between narcissism and withdrawal under conditions of high ethical leadership. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

From the Introduction:

Ethical leaders model socially acceptable behavior that is prosocial in nature while matching an individual moral-compass with the good of the group (Brown et al., 2005). Ethical leadership is defined as exalting the moral person (i.e., being an ethical example, fair treatment) and the moral manager (i.e., encourage normative behavior, discourage unethical behavior), and has been shown to be related to several beneficial organizational outcomes (Den Hartog, 2015; Mayer et al., 2012). The construct of ethical leadership is not only based on moral/ethical principles, but overtly promoting normative communally beneficial ideals and establishing guidelines for acceptable behavior (Bedi et al., 2016; Brown et al., 2005). Ethical leaders cultivate a reputation founded upon doing the right thing, treating others fairly, and thinking about the common good.

As a contextual factor, ethical leadership presents a situation where employees are presented with expectations and clear standards for normative behavior. Indeed, ethical leaders, by their behavior, convey what behavior is expected, rewarded, and punished (Brown et al., 2005). In other words, ethical leaders set the standard for behavior in the organization and are effective at establishing fair and transparent processes for rewarding performance. Consequently, ethical leadership has been shown to be positively related to task performance and citizenship behavior and negatively related to deviant behaviors (Peng & Kim, 2020).

This research examines how narcissistic individuals respond to ethical leadership, which is characterized by fairness, transparency, and concern for the well-being of employees. The study found that narcissistic individuals are more likely to respond with anger and hostility to ethical leadership compared to non-narcissistic individuals. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the fact that narcissists prioritize their own self-interests and are less concerned with the well-being of others. Ethical leadership, which promotes the well-being of employees, may therefore be perceived as a threat to their self-interests, leading to a negative response.

The study also found that when narcissists were in a leadership position, they were less likely to engage in ethical leadership behaviors themselves. This suggests that narcissistic individuals may not only be resistant to ethical leadership but may also be less likely to exhibit these behaviors themselves. The findings of this research have important implications for organizations and their leaders, as they highlight the challenges of promoting ethical leadership in the presence of narcissistic individuals.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Moral Shock

Stockdale, K. (2022).
Journal of the American Philosophical
Association, 8(3), 496-511.


This paper defends an account of moral shock as an emotional response to intensely bewildering events that are also of moral significance. This theory stands in contrast to the common view that shock is a form of intense surprise. On the standard model of surprise, surprise is an emotional response to events that violated one's expectations. But I show that we can be morally shocked by events that confirm our expectations. What makes an event shocking is not that it violated one's expectations, but that the content of the event is intensely bewildering (and bewildering events are often, but not always, contrary to our expectations). What causes moral shock is, I argue, our lack of emotional preparedness for the event. And I show that, despite the relative lack of attention to shock in the philosophical literature, the emotion is significant to moral, social, and political life.


I have argued that moral shock is an emotional response to intensely bewildering events that are also of moral significance. Although shock is typically considered to be an intense form of surprise, where surprise is an emotional response to events that violate our expectations or are at least unexpected, I have argued that the contrary-expectation model is found wanting. For it seems that we are sometimes shocked by the immoral actions of others even when we expected them to behave in just the ways that they did. What is shocking is what is intensely bewildering—and the bewildering often, but not always, tracks the unexpected. The extent to which such events shock us is, I have argued, a function of our felt readiness to experience them. When we are not emotionally prepared for what we expect to occur, we might find ourselves in the grip of moral shock.

There is much more to be said about the emotion of moral shock and its significance to moral, social, and political life. This paper is meant to be a starting point rather than a decisive take on an undertheorized emotion. But by understanding more deeply the nature and effects of moral shock, we can gain richer insight into a common response to immoral actions; what prevents us from responding well in the moment; and how the brief and fleeting, yet intense events in our lives affect agency, responsibility, and memory. We might also be able to make better sense of the bewildering social and political events that shock us and those to which we have become emotionally resilient.

This appears to be a philosophical explication of "Moral Injury", as can be found multiple places on this web site.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Are there really so many moral emotions? Carving morality at its functional joints

Fitouchi L., André J., & Baumard N.
To appear in L. Al-Shawaf & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.)
The Oxford Handbook of Evolution and the Emotions.
New York: Oxford University Press.


In recent decades, a large body of work has highlighted the importance of emotional processes in moral cognition. Since then, a heterogeneous bundle of emotions as varied as anger, guilt, shame, contempt, empathy, gratitude, and disgust have been proposed to play an essential role in moral psychology.  However, the inclusion of these emotions in the moral domain often lacks a clear functional rationale, generating conflations between merely social and properly moral emotions. Here, we build on (i) evolutionary theories of morality as an adaptation for attracting others’ cooperative investments, and on (ii) specifications of the distinctive form and content of moral cognitive representations. On this basis, we argue that only indignation (“moral anger”) and guilt can be rigorously characterized as moral emotions, operating on distinctively moral representations. Indignation functions to reclaim benefits to which one is morally entitled, without exceeding the limits of justice. Guilt functions to motivate individuals to compensate their violations of moral contracts. By contrast, other proposed moral emotions (e.g. empathy, shame, disgust) appear only superficially associated with moral cognitive contents and adaptive challenges. Shame doesn’t track, by design, the respect of moral obligations, but rather social valuation, the two being not necessarily aligned. Empathy functions to motivate prosocial behavior between interdependent individuals, independently of, and sometimes even in contradiction with the prescriptions of moral intuitions. While disgust is often hypothesized to have acquired a moral role beyond its pathogen-avoidance function, we argue that both evolutionary rationales and psychological evidence for this claim remain inconclusive for now.


In this chapter, we have suggested that a specification of the form and function of moral representations leads to a clearer picture of moral emotions. In particular, it enables a principled distinction between moral and non-moral emotions, based on the particular types of cognitive representations they process. Moral representations have a specific content: they represent a precise quantity of benefits that cooperative partners owe each other, a legitimate allocation of costs and benefits that ought to be, irrespective of whether it is achieved by people’s actual behaviors. Humans intuit that they have a duty not to betray their coalition, that innocent people do not deserve to be harmed, that their partner has a right not to be cheated on. Moral emotions can thus be defined as superordinate programs orchestrating cognition, physiology and behavior in accordance with the specific information encoded in these moral representations.    On this basis, indignation and guilt appear as prototypical moral emotions. Indignation (“moral anger”) is activated when one receives fewer benefits than one deserves, and recruits bargaining mechanisms to enforce the violated moral contract. Guilt, symmetrically, is sensitive to one’s failure to honor one’s obligations toward others, and motivates compensation to provide them the missing benefits they deserve. By contrast, often-proposed “moral” emotions – shame, empathy, disgust – seem not to function to compute distinctively moral representations of cooperative obligations, but serve other, non-moral functions – social status management, interdependence, and pathogen avoidance (Figure 2). 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Towards a Social Psychology of Cynicism

Neumann, E., & Zaki, j. (2022, September 13).


Cynicism is the attitude that people are primarily motivated by self-interest. It tracks numerous negative outcomes, and yet many people are cynical. To understand this “cynicism paradox,” we review and call for more social psychological work on how cynicism spreads, with implications for how we might slow it down.

The Cynicism Paradox

Out of almost 8,000 respondents from 41 countries, many agree that “powerful people tend to exploit others” or that “kind-hearted people usually suffer losses”. This indicates widespread cynicism, the attitude that people are primarily motivated by self-interest, often accompanied by emotions such as contempt, anger, and distress, and antagonistic interactions with others. What explains such cynicism? Perhaps it reflects a realistic perception of the suffering caused by human self-interest. But workin social psychology regularly demonstrates that attitudes are not always perfect  mirrors of reality.  We will argue  that  people  often  overestimate self-interest,  create  it through their expectations, or overstate their own to not appear naïve. Cynicism rises when people witness self-interest, but social psychology –so far relatively quiet on the topic –can explain why they get trapped in this worldview even when it stops tracking reality.

Cynicism is related, but not reducible to, a lack of trust. Trust is often defined as accepting vulnerability based on positive expectations of others. Generalized trust implies a general tendency to  have  positive  expectations  of  others,  and  shares  with  cynicism  the  tendency  to  judge  the character of a whole group of people. But cynicism is more than reduced positive expectations.It entails a strongly negative view of human nature. The intensity of cynicism’s hostility further differentiates it from mere generalized distrust. Finally, while people can trust and distrust others’ competence,  integrity,  and  predictability,  cynicism  usually  focuses  on  judgments  of  moral character.  This  differentiates  cynicism  from  mere  pessimism,  which  encompasses  any  negative beliefs about the future, moral or non-moral alike. 

Direct applications to psychotherapy.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

What drives mass shooters? Grievance, despair, and anger are more likely triggers than mental illness, experts say

Deanna Pan
Boston Globe
Originally posted 3 JUN 22

Here is an excerpt:

A 2018 study by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit evaluating 63 active shooters between 2000 and 2013 found that a quarter were known to have been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness, and just 3 of the 63 had a verified psychotic disorder.

Although 62 percent of shooters showed signs that they were struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, or paranoia, their symptoms, the study notes, may ultimately have been “transient manifestations of behaviors and moods” that would not qualify them for a formal diagnosis.

Formally diagnosed mental illness, the study concludes, “is not a very specific predictor of violence of any type, let alone targeted violence,” given that roughly half of the US population experiences symptoms of mental illness over the course of their lifetimes.

Forensic psychologist Jillian Peterson, cofounder of The Violence Project, a think tank dedicated to reducing violence, said mass shooters are typically younger men, channeling their pain and anger through acts of violence and aggression. For many mass shooters, Peterson said, their path to violence begins with early childhood trauma. They often share a sense of “entitlement,” she said — to wealth, power, romance, and success. When they don’t achieve those goals, they become enraged and search for a scapegoat.

”As they get older, you see a lot of despair, hopelessness, self-hate — many of them attempt suicide — isolation. And then that kind of despair, isolation, that self-hatred turns outward,” Peterson said. “School shooters blame their schools. Some people blame a racial group or women or a religious group or the workplace.”

But mental illness, she said, is rarely an exclusive motive for mass shooters. In a study published last year, Peterson and her colleagues analyzed a dataset of 172 mass shooters for signs of psychosis — features of schizophrenia and other mood disorders. Although mental illness and psychotic disorders were overrepresented among the mass shooters they studied, Peterson’s study found most mass shooters were motivated by other factors, such as interpersonal conflicts, relationship problems, or a desire for fame.

Peterson’s study found psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, played no role in almost 70 percent of cases, and only a minor role in 11 percent of cases, where the shooters had other motives. In just 10 percent of cases, perpetrators were directly responding to their delusions or hallucinations when they were planning and committing their attacks.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Race and reactions to women's expressions of anger at work: Examining the effects of the "angry Black woman" stereotype

Motro, D., Evans, J. B., Ellis, A., & Benson, L. 
(2022). The Journal of applied psychology, 
107(1), 142–152.


Across two studies (n = 555), we examine the detrimental effects of the "angry black woman" stereotype in the workplace. Drawing on parallel-constraint-satisfaction theory, we argue that observers will be particularly sensitive to expressions of anger by black women due to widely held stereotypes. In Study 1, we examine a three-way interaction among anger, race, and gender, and find that observers are more likely to make internal attributions for expressions of anger when an individual is a black woman, which then leads to worse performance evaluations and assessments of leadership capability. In Study 2, we focus solely on women and expand our initial model by examining stereotype activation as a mechanism linking the effects of anger and race on internal attributions. We replicated findings from Study 1 and found support for stereotype activation as an underlying mechanism. We believe our work contributes to research on race, gender, and leadership, and highlights an overlooked stereotype in the management literature. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.



Black employees have to overcome a myriad of hurdles at work based on the color of their skin. For black women, our research indicates that there may be additional considerations when identifying biases at work. Anger is an emotion that employees may display in a variety of contexts, often stemming from a
perceived injustice. Bolstered by cultural reinforcement, our studies suggest that the angry black woman stereotype can affect how individuals view displays of anger at work. The angry black woman stereotype represents another hurdle for black women, and we urge future research to expand upon our understanding of the effects of perceptions on black women at work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Forms and Functions of the Social Emotions

Sznycer, D., Sell, A., & Lieberman, D. (2021). 
Current Directions in Psychological Science. 


In engineering, form follows function. It is therefore difficult to understand an engineered object if one does not examine it in light of its function. Just as understanding the structure of a lock requires understanding the desire to secure valuables, understanding structures engineered by natural selection, including emotion systems, requires hypotheses about adaptive function. Social emotions reliably solved adaptive problems of human sociality. A central function of these emotions appears to be the recalibration of social evaluations in the minds of self and others. For example, the anger system functions to incentivize another individual to value your welfare more highly when you deem the current valuation insufficient; gratitude functions to consolidate a cooperative relationship with another individual when there are indications that the other values your welfare; shame functions to minimize the spread of discrediting information about yourself and the threat of being devalued by others; and pride functions to capitalize on opportunities to become more highly valued by others. Using the lens of social valuation, researchers are now mapping these and other social emotions at a rapid pace, finding striking regularities across industrial and small-scale societies and throughout history.

From the Shame portion

The behavioral repertoire of shame is broad. From the perspective of the disgraced or to-be-disgraced individual, a trait (e.g., incompetence) or course of action (e.g., theft) that fellow group members view negatively can be shielded from others’ censure at each of various junctures: imagination, decision making, action, information diffusion within the community, and audience reaction. Shame appears to have authority over devaluation-minimizing responses relevant to each of these junctures. For example, shame can lead people to turn away from courses of actions that might lead others to devalue them, to interrupt their execution of discrediting actions, to conceal and destroy reputationally damaging information about themselves, and to hide. When an audience finds discrediting information about the focal individual and condemns or attacks that individual, the shamed individual may apologize, signal submission, appease, cooperate, obfuscate, lie, shift the blame to others, or react with aggression. These behaviors are heterogeneous from a tactical standpoint; some even work at cross-purposes if mobilized concurrently. But each of these behaviors appears to have the strategic potential to limit the threat of devaluation in certain contexts, combinations, or sequences.

Such shame-inspired behaviors as hiding, scapegoating, and aggressing are undesirable from the standpoint of victims and third parties. This has led to the view that shame is an ugly and maladaptive emotion (Tangney et al., 1996). However, note that those behaviors can enhance the welfare of the focal individual, who is pressed to escape detection and minimize or counteract devaluation by others. Whereas the consequences of social devaluation are certainly ugly for the individual being devalued, the form-function approach suggests instead that shame is an elegantly engineered system that transmits bad news of the potential for devaluation to the array of counter-devaluation responses available to the focal individual.

Important data points to share with trainees.  A good refreshed for seasoned therapists.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Signaling When No One Is Watching: A Reputation Heuristics Account of Outrage and Punishment In One-Shot Anonymous Interactions

Jordan, J. J., & Rand, D. G. (2020). 
Journal of Personality and 
Social Psychology, 118(1), 57–88. 


Moralistic punishment can confer reputation benefits by signaling trustworthiness to observers. However, why do people punish even when nobody is watching? We argue that people often rely on the heuristic that reputation is typically at stake, such that reputation concerns can shape moralistic outrage and punishment even in one-shot anonymous interactions. We then support this account using data from Amazon Mechanical Turk. In anonymous experiments, subjects (total n = 8,440) report more outrage in response to others’ selfishness when they cannot signal their trustworthiness through direct prosociality (sharing with a third party)—such that if the interaction were not anonymous, punishment would have greater signaling value. Furthermore, mediation analyses suggest that sharing opportunities reduce outrage by influencing reputation concerns. Additionally, anonymous experiments measuring costly punishment (total n = 6,076) show the same pattern: subjects punish more when sharing is not possible. Moreover, and importantly, moderation analyses provide some evidence that sharing opportunities do not merely reduce outrage and punishment by inducing empathy toward selfishness or hypocrisy aversion among non-sharers. Finally, we support the specific role of heuristics by investigating individual differences in deliberateness. Less deliberative individuals (who typically rely more on heuristics) are more sensitive to sharing opportunities in our anonymous punishment experiments, but, critically, not in punishment experiments where reputation is at stake (total n = 3,422); and not in our anonymous outrage experiments (where condemning is costless). Together, our results suggest that when nobody is watching, reputation cues nonetheless can shape outrage and—among individuals who rely on heuristics—costly punishment. 


Third-party punishment is central to human morality, and plays a key role in promoting cooperation. However, from an ultimate perspective, it is also puzzling, especially in the context of oneshot anonymous interactions: why should we make personal sacrifices to punish wrongdoing toward others? Our results support the theory that even in such contexts, some people rely on the heuristic that reputation is typically at stake. As a result, even when reputation is not actually at stake, reputation cues can shape moral outrage—and, among less deliberative individuals, costly punishment. Our results thus demonstrate how a reputation framework can shed light on these key features of human morality.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Anger Increases Susceptibility to Misinformation

Greenstein M, Franklin N. 
Exp Psychol. 2020 May;67(3):202-209. 


The effect of anger on acceptance of false details was examined using a three-phase misinformation paradigm. Participants viewed an event, were presented with schema-consistent and schema-irrelevant misinformation about it, and were given a surprise source monitoring test to examine the acceptance of the suggested material. Between each phase of the experiment, they performed a task that either induced anger or maintained a neutral mood. Participants showed greater susceptibility to schema-consistent than schema-irrelevant misinformation. Anger did not affect either recognition or source accuracy for true details about the initial event, but suggestibility for false details increased with anger. In spite of this increase in source errors (i.e., misinformation acceptance), both confidence in the accuracy of source attributions and decision speed for incorrect judgments also increased with anger. Implications are discussed with respect to both the general effects of anger and real-world applications such as eyewitness memory.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks

Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell
The Atlantic
Originally posted December 2019

Her are two excerpts:

Human beings evolved to gossip, preen, manipulate, and ostracize. We are easily lured into this new gladiatorial circus, even when we know that it can make us cruel and shallow. As the Yale psychologist Molly Crockett has argued, the normal forces that might stop us from joining an outrage mob—such as time to reflect and cool off, or feelings of empathy for a person being humiliated—are attenuated when we can’t see the person’s face, and when we are asked, many times a day, to take a side by publicly “liking” the condemnation.

In other words, social media turns many of our most politically engaged citizens into Madison’s nightmare: arsonists who compete to create the most inflammatory posts and images, which they can distribute across the country in an instant while their public sociometer displays how far their creations have traveled.


Twitter also made a key change in 2009, adding the “Retweet” button. Until then, users had to copy and paste older tweets into their status updates, a small obstacle that required a few seconds of thought and attention. The Retweet button essentially enabled the frictionless spread of content. A single click could pass someone else’s tweet on to all of your followers—and let you share in the credit for contagious content. In 2012, Facebook offered its own version of the retweet, the “Share” button, to its fastest-growing audience: smartphone users.

Chris Wetherell was one of the engineers who created the Retweet button for Twitter. He admitted to BuzzFeed earlier this year that he now regrets it. As Wetherell watched the first Twitter mobs use his new tool, he thought to himself: “We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon.”

The coup de grâce came in 2012 and 2013, when Upworthy and other sites began to capitalize on this new feature set, pioneering the art of testing headlines across dozens of variations to find the version that generated the highest click-through rate. This was the beginning of “You won’t believe …” articles and their ilk, paired with images tested and selected to make us click impulsively. These articles were not usually intended to cause outrage (the founders of Upworthy were more interested in uplift). But the strategy’s success ensured the spread of headline testing, and with it emotional story-packaging, through new and old media alike; outrageous, morally freighted headlines proliferated in the following years.

The info is here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Constructionist Review of Morality and Emotions: No Evidence for Specific Links Between Moral Content and Discrete Emotions

Image result for moral emotionsCameron, C. D., Lindquist, K. A., & Gray K.
Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 
2015 Nov;19(4):371-94.
doi: 10.1177/1088868314566683.


Morality and emotions are linked, but what is the nature of their correspondence? Many "whole number" accounts posit specific correspondences between moral content and discrete emotions, such that harm is linked to anger, and purity is linked to disgust. A review of the literature provides little support for these specific morality-emotion links. Moreover, any apparent specificity may arise from global features shared between morality and emotion, such as affect and conceptual content. These findings are consistent with a constructionist perspective of the mind, which argues against a whole number of discrete and domain-specific mental mechanisms underlying morality and emotion. Instead, constructionism emphasizes the flexible combination of basic and domain-general ingredients such as core affect and conceptualization in creating the experience of moral judgments and discrete emotions. The implications of constructionism in moral psychology are discussed, and we propose an experimental framework for rigorously testing morality-emotion links.

Friday, November 22, 2019

What School Shooters Have in Common

Jillian Peterson & James Densley
Originally posted October 8, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

However, school shooters are almost always a student at the school, and they typically have four things in common:

They suffered early-childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. They were angry or despondent over a recent event, resulting in feelings of suicidality. They studied other school shootings, notably Columbine, often online, and found inspiration. And they possessed the means to carry out an attack.

By understanding the traits that school shooters share, schools can do more than just upgrade security or have students rehearse for their near-deaths. They can instead plan to prevent the violence.

To mitigate childhood trauma, for example, school-based mental-health services such as counselors and social workers are needed. Schools can also adopt curriculum focused on teaching positive coping skills, resilience, and social-emotional learning, especially to young boys (According to our data, 98 percent of mass shooters are men.)

A crisis is a moment, an inflection point, when things will either become very bad or begin to get better. In 80 percent of cases, school shooters communicated to others that they were in crisis, whether through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence. For this reason, all adults in schools, from the principal to the custodian, need high-quality training in crisis intervention and suicide prevention and the time and space to connect with a student. At the same time, schools need formal systems in place for students and staff to (anonymously) report a student in crisis.

The info is here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Dynamic Moral Judgments and Emotions

Magda Osman
Published Online June 2015 in SciRes.


We may experience strong moral outrage when we read a news headline that describes a prohibited action, but when we gain additional information by reading the main news story, do our emotional experiences change at all, and if they do in what way do they change? In a single online study with 80 participants the aim was to examine the extent to which emotional experiences (disgust, anger) and moral judgments track changes in information about a moral scenario. The evidence from the present study suggests that we systematically adjust our moral judgments and our emotional experiences as a result of exposure to further information about the morally dubious action referred to in a moral scenario. More specifically, the way in which we adjust our moral judgments and emotions appears to be based on information signalling whether a morally dubious act is permitted or prohibited.

From the Discussion

The present study showed that moral judgments changed in response to different details concerning the moral scenarios, and while participants gave the most severe judgments for the initial limited information regarding the scenario (i.e. the headline), they adjusted the severity of their judgments downwards as more information was provided (i.e. main story, conclusion). In other words, when context was provided for why a morally dubious action was carried out, people used this to inform their later judgments and consciously integrated this new information into their judgments of the action. Crucially, this reflects the fact that judgments and emotions are not fixed, and that they are likely to operate on rational processes (Huebner, 2011, 2014; Teper et al., 2015). More to the point, this evidence suggests that there may well be an integrated representation of the moral scenario that is based on informational content as well as personal emotional experiences that signal the valance on which the information should be judged. The evidence from the present study suggests that both moral judgments and emotional experiences change systematically in response to changes in information that critically concern the way in which a morally dubious action should be evaluated.

A pdf can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Cruel, Immoral Behavior Is Not Mental Illness

gun violence, mental disordersJames L. Knoll & Ronald W. Pies
Psychiatric Times
Originally posted August 19, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Another way of posing the question is to ask—Does immoral, callous, cruel, and supremely selfish behaviors constitute a mental illness? These socially deviant traits appear in those with and without mental illness, and are widespread in the general population. Are there some perpetrators suffering from a genuine psychotic disorder who remain mentally organized enough to carry out these attacks? Of course, but they are a minority. To further complicate matters, psychotic individuals can also commit violent acts that were motivated by base emotions (resentment, selfishness, etc.), while their psychotic symptoms may be peripheral or merely coincidental.

It bears repeating that reliable, clinically-based data or complete psychological autopsies on perpetrators of mass public shootings are very difficult to obtain. That said, some of the best available research on mass public shooters indicates that they often display “rigidness, hostility, or extreme self-centeredness.” A recent FBI study found that only 25% of mass shooters had ever had a mental illness diagnosis, and only 3 of these individuals had a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder. The FBI’s cautionary statement in this report is incisive: “. . . formally diagnosed mental illness is not a very specific predictor of violence of any type, let alone targeted violence…. declarations that all active shooters must simply be mentally ill are misleading and unhelpful."

Psychiatric and mental health treatment has its limits, and is not traditionally designed to detect and uncover budding violent extremists. It is designed to work together with individuals who are invested in their own mental health and seek to increase their own degrees of freedom in life in a pro-social manner. This is why calls for more mental health laws or alterations in civil commitment laws are likely to be low-yield at best, with respect to preventing mass killing—and stagnating to mental health progress at worst.

The info is here.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Trump eyes mental institutions as answer to gun violence

Kevin Freking
Associated Press
Originally published August 30, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

But Trump’s support for new “mental institutions” is drawing pushback from many in the mental health profession who say that approach would do little to reduce mass shootings in the United States and incorrectly associates mental illness with violence.

Paul Gionfriddo, president and chief executive of the advocacy group Mental Health America, said Trump is pursuing a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

“Anybody with any sense of history understands they were a complete failure. They were money down the drain,” said Gionfriddo.

The number of state hospital beds that serve the nation’s most seriously ill patients has fallen from more than 550,000 in the 1950s to fewer than 38,000 in the first half of 2016, according to a survey from the Treatment Advocacy Center, which seeks policies to overcome barriers to treatment.

John Snook, the group’s executive director, said Trump’s language “hasn’t been helpful to the broader conversation.” But he said the president has hit on an important problem — a shortage of beds for the serious mentally ill.

“There are headlines every day in almost every newspaper talking about the consequences of not having enough hospital beds, huge numbers of people in jails, homelessness and ridiculously high treatment costs because we’re trying to help people in crisis care,” Snook said.

The info is here.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Anger, Fear, and Echo Chambers: The Emotional Basis for Online Behavior

Wollebæk, D., Karlsen, R., Steen-Johnsen, K., & Enjolras, B.
(2019). Social Media + Society. 


Emotions, such as anger and fear, have been shown to influence people’s political behavior. However, few studies link emotions specifically to how people debate political issues and seek political information online. In this article, we examine how anger and fear are related to politics-oriented digital behavior, attempting to bridge the gap between the thus far disconnected literature on political psychology and the digital media. Based on survey data, we show that anger and fear are connected to distinct behaviors online. Angry people are more likely to engage in debates with people having both similar and opposing views. They also seek out information confirming their views more frequently. Anxious individuals, by contrast, tend to seek out information contradicting their opinions. These findings reiterate predictions made in the extant literature concerning the role of emotions in politics. Thus, we argue that anger reinforces echo chamber dynamics and trench warfare dynamics in the digital public sphere, while fear counteracts these dynamics.

Discussion and Conclusion

The analyses have shown that anger and fear have distinct effects on echo chamber and trench warfare dynamics in the digital sphere. With regard to the debate dimension, we have shown that anger is positively related to participation in online debates. This finding confirms the results of a recent study by Hasell and Weeks (2016). Importantly, however, the impact of anger is not limited to echo chamber discussions with like-minded and similar people. Angry individuals are also over-represented in debates between people holding opposing views and belonging to a different class or
ethnic background. This entails that regarding online debates, anger contributes more to what has been previously labeled as trench warfare dynamics than to echo chamber dynamics.

The research is here.

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.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Distinct Brain Areas involved in Anger versus Punishment during Social Interactions

Olga M. Klimecki, David Sander & Patrik Vuilleumier
Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 10556 (2018)


Although anger and aggression can have wide-ranging consequences for social interactions, there is sparse knowledge as to which brain activations underlie the feelings of anger and the regulation of related punishment behaviors. To address these issues, we studied brain activity while participants played an economic interaction paradigm called Inequality Game (IG). The current study confirms that the IG elicits anger through the competitive behavior of an unfair (versus fair) other and promotes punishment behavior. Critically, when participants see the face of the unfair other, self-reported anger is parametrically related to activations in temporal areas and amygdala – regions typically associated with mentalizing and emotion processing, respectively. During anger provocation, activations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area important for regulating emotions, predicted the inhibition of later punishment behavior. When participants subsequently engaged in behavioral decisions for the unfair versus fair other, increased activations were observed in regions involved in behavioral adjustment and social cognition, comprising posterior cingulate cortex, temporal cortex, and precuneus. These data point to a distinction of brain activations related to angry feelings and the control of subsequent behavioral choices. Furthermore, they show a contribution of prefrontal control mechanisms during anger provocation to the inhibition of later punishment.

The research is here.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What Makes Moral Disgust Special? An Integrative Functional Review

Giner-Sorolla, Roger and Kupfer, Tom R. and Sabo, John S. (2018)
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 57

The role of disgust in moral psychology has been a matter of much controversy and experimentation over the past 20 or so years. We present here an integrative look at the literature, organized according to the four functions of emotion proposed by integrative functional theory: appraisal, associative, self-regulation, and communicative. Regarding appraisals, we review experimental, personality, and neuroscientific work that has shown differences between elicitors of disgust and anger in moral contexts, with disgust responding more to bodily moral violations such as incest, and anger responding more to sociomoral violations such as theft. We also present new evidence for interpreting the phenomenon of sociomoral disgust as an appraisal of bad character in a person. The associative nature of disgust is shown by evidence for “unreasoning disgust,” in which associations to bodily moral violations are not accompanied by elaborated reasons, and not modified by appraisals such as harm or intent. We also critically examine the literature about the ability of incidental disgust to intensify moral judgments associatively. For disgust's self-regulation function, we consider the possibility that disgust serves as an existential defense, regulating avoidance of thoughts that might threaten our basic self-image as living humans. Finally, we discuss new evidence from our lab that moral disgust serves a communicative function, implying that expressions of disgust serve to signal one's own moral intentions even when a different emotion is felt internally on the basis of appraisal. Within the scope of the literature, there is evidence that all four functions of Giner-Sorolla’s (2012) integrative functional theory of emotion may be operating, and that their variety can help explain some of the paradoxes of disgust.

The information is here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health

By Kirsten Weir
The Monitor on Psychology
January 2017, Vol 48, No. 1
Print version: page 30

Here is an excerpt:

One common but mistaken belief is that forgiveness means letting the person who hurt you off the hook. Yet forgiveness is not the same as justice, nor does it require reconciliation, Worthington explains. A former victim of abuse shouldn't reconcile with an abuser who remains potentially dangerous, for example. But the victim can still come to a place of empathy and understanding. "Whether I forgive or don't forgive isn't going to affect whether justice is done," Worthington says. "Forgiveness happens inside my skin."

Another misconception is that forgiving someone is a sign of weakness. "To that I say, well, the person must not have tried it," says Worthington.

And there may be very good reasons to make the effort. Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates. In fact, researchers have amassed enough evidence of the benefits of forgiveness to fill a book; Toussaint, Worthington and David R. Williams, PhD, edited a 2015 book, "Forgiveness and Health," that detailed the physical and psychological benefits.

Toussaint and Worthington suggest that stress relief is probably the chief factor connecting forgiveness and well-being. "We know chronic stress is bad for our health," Toussaint says. "Forgiveness allows you to let go of the chronic interpersonal stressors that cause us undue burden."

While stress relief is important, Enright believes there are other important mechanisms by which forgiveness works its magic. One of those, he suggests, is "toxic" anger. "There's nothing wrong with healthy anger, but when anger is very deep and long lasting, it can do a number on us systemically," he says. "When you get rid of anger, your muscles relax, you're less anxious, you have more energy, your immune system can strengthen."

The article is here.