Socio-cognitive conflict, emotions and complexity of thought in real-life morality

Liisa Myyry, Klaus Helkama
Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 2007, 48 (3): 247-59
A new taxonomy of real-life dilemmas was tested in two studies. In Study 1, 35 respondents assessed six types of real-life dilemmas in terms of socio-cognitive conflict. Support was found for a classification of dilemmas into three levels of socio-cognitive conflict. In Study 2, 191 young women responded to measures of social perspective-taking and emotional empathy and reported a real-life moral dilemma as well as their feelings while making decisions about it. The dilemmas were classified into personal and impersonal and into three levels of socio-cognitive conflict. Dependent variables were the integrative complexity of the arguments and the reported feelings (sympathy, upset, and remorse). Dispositional empathy and perspective taking predicted level of socio-cognitive conflict and feelings of sympathy but not integrative complexity. Personal dilemmas aroused more feelings of upset than did impersonal ones. Low socio-cognitive conflict dilemmas evoked less complex thinking and less intensive feelings of upset and sympathy than did moderate and high socio-cognitive conflict dilemmas.

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