The Role of Emotions and Circumstances in Moral Judgments



Objective. To study the variety of the moral luck demonstration depending on the level of the agent’s degree of control, personal condemnation of the agent, emotional resonance and compassion to the agent, circumstances and the harm degree of the outcome. Background. Modern theoretic approaches explain the moral luck phenomenon as a coincidence or a mistake but do not explain the variety of its demonstration. Design. Within five situations there were varied the level of control, circumstances, personal characteristics and the harm degree. After each situation we offered the five categories of questions: emotions towards the agent, emotions towards the result, punishment, moral judgement, personal condemnation of the agent, emotional resonance and compassion to the agent. Testing the relations of the variables by means of contingency tables. Subjects. 54 subjects (male 28), age from 18 to 45. Methods. Author’s five moral vignettes with questionnaire containing five categories of questions after each of the situation. Results. Punishment depends on the level of control, circumstances and the outcome. Negative mixed emotions related to punishment without regard of the harm degree. The emotions, personal condemnation and moral judgment related to the agent’s level of control. Compassion can be demonstrated notwithstanding the punishments and condemnation. Conclusions. Punishment judgment is the mental system which flexibility is provided by the attitude to punish in the case of bad behavior, the variety and intensity of negative emotions towards the agent or the outcome, the agent’s level of control.

General Information

Keywords: moral luck, moral judgment, level of control, emotions in moral judgment, hindsight effect

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Yudina T.O. The Role of Emotions and Circumstances in Moral Judgments . Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2021. Vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 170–187. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2021120311. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Tatiana O. Yudina, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor of the Department of General Psychology, Institute of Social Science, Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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