Investigating theactor effectin moral emotion expectancies across cultures: A comparison of Chinese and Canadian adolescents

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The study investigated adolescents' moral emotion expectancies for actions versus inactions across cultures (Chinese vs. Canadian) and different moral rule contexts (rules that prohibit antisocial behaviour vs. rules that prescribe prosocial actions) while controlling for judgements of obligatoriness of moral actions. The sample consisted of 372 teenagers from three grade levels (7–8, 10–11, and 1st–2nd year university). Participants were provided with scenarios depicting moral and immoral actions of self or others. Moral emotion expectancies were assessed following each scenario by asking participants to rate the intensity of various emotions they anticipate for themselves in the given situation. Actions were related to stronger self-evaluative and other-evaluative moral emotion expectancies than inactions in both cultures. Whereas perceived obligatoriness of moral actions was associated with moral emotion expectancies, it did not account for the actor effect. Moreover, Chinese adolescents tended to report stronger negatively charged other-evaluative emotions when observing others engaging in antisocial behaviour and less positive emotions for moral actions. Overall, the study indicates that moral emotion expectancies hinge upon universal moral principles (as exemplified by the actor effect) that interact with cultural values and individuals' moral judgement in complex ways.

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