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Does emotion influence moral judgment?

Question for the essay this week is hard to understand. Hopefully thinking about Huebner et al will help

‘Does emotion influence moral judgment or merely motivate morally relevant action?’

Huebner et al, 2009

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

This is how Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010) understand the situation ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

But an influence of emotion on responses is also thought to be compatible with a range of other options.
For example, Could it be that emotion of disgust influences how the scenario is interpreted?
Perhaps, for example, feelings of disgust make morally relevant features of a situation more salient and this somehow make people more likely to judge an action wrong.
In principle, there is a wide range of ways that disgust and other emotions could influence what people say about the moral wrongness of actions in vignettes ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1

‘these data fail to isolate the precise point at which emotion has a role in our moral psychology. ...

emotional stimuli ... presented before the scenario is read could

... influence the interpretation of the scenario

or the question.

Or, emotion could act as a gain on what has already been conceived as a moral infraction (thereby, increasing the severity of the perceived wrong)’

\citep[pp.~2--3]{huebner:2009_role}.

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

But is what Huebner et al are claiming correct?

Disgust influences unreflective ethical judgement regardless of what you think you are disgusted by.

vs

Disgust associated with specific actions influences unreflective ethical judgements about those actions.

I want to suggest, tentatively, that if this second option is correct, then we should probably not
This belongs on a section about the role of emotion in moral judgement. If disgust influences regardless of what it’s attributed to, then it (a) doesn’t support Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s view; and (b) opens the way to emotion having only an indirect in influencing judgements role.
Wheras if the converse holds (disgust only matters when apparently invoked by the events in the vignette), this would support a more intimate connection between moral judgement and disgust.

Causing disgust by dipping subjects’ hands in goo doesn’t work.

‘In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’

‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.’

That is, subject’s disgust has to associated with the events described. (Compare aversion following poisoning.)

The heuristic only works when the disgust feeling is perceived as linked to the events, not when there is an alternative salient explanation for it.
I think this greatly strengthens the case: suggests that attributing the feeling of disgust to the episode of thinking about the events in the vignette is what is influencing moral judgements.
Note this doesn’t necessarily require reasons.
‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.
We unwittingly evoked this process in an earlier and failed attempt to carry out these experiments.
As a disgust manipulation, we asked participants to immerse one hand in a gooey substance [...]. Immediately afterward, participants made morality ratings.
This very concrete disgust experience, [...] did not influence moral judgments [...], presumably because the unusual nature of the experience and its obvious relation to disgust remained highly salient as participants made their moral judgments.
In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’
\citep[p.~1106]{schnall:2008_disgust}

Schnall et al, 2008 p. 1106

But should we accept their argument? Here’s the video they used to instill disgust.
In other experiments, they triggered disgust by (i) creating a fart smell, (ii) putting participants in a dirty environment, and (iii) asking them to write about disgusting events in their own lives.
Seems like (i) and (ii) might contrast with (iii) and the video in providing unattributed feelings of disgust.
Why is the video different from dipping hands in goo from the point of view of there being a ‘salient cause’? Is watching someone dip their hands into the shit-filled worst toilet in scotland somehow not a salient cause of disgust?

Causing disgust by dipping subjects’ hands in goo doesn’t work.

‘In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’

‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.’

That is, subject’s disgust has to associated with the events described. (Compare aversion following poisoning.)

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

Disgust influences unreflective ethical judgement regardless of what you think you are disgusted by.

vs

Disgust associated with specific actions influences unreflective ethical judgements about those actions.

So it seems to me that we are unclear on a critical question, one which constrains which causal model we should accept ...
In principle, there is a wide range of ways that disgust and other emotions could influence what people say about the moral wrongness of actions in vignettes ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1

... And for this reason, I think we may have to accept, on the basis of the evidenc we have seen so far, that

‘these data fail to isolate the precise point at which emotion has a role in our moral psychology. ...

Question for the essay this week is hard to understand (and maybe not optimally formulated; I took it from Huebner et al, 2009 but I accept on reflection that the contrast is actually tricky to draw).

Does emotion influence moral judgment or merely motivate morally relevant action?

Just check you understand the question
I want to continue trying to understand the question by introducing a competing view.

Yes! --- Sinnott-Armstrong et al, 2010

No! --- Dwyer, 2009; Mikhail, 2007