A new study provided us with intriguing insights into some of the factors that influence how we make moral judgements.
According to the researchers, our moral judgments are often based on intuition.
Our emotions seem to drive our intuitions, giving us the gut feeling that something is 'right' or 'wrong.'
In some cases, however, we seem to be able to override these initial reactions.
Matthew Feinberg and colleagues hypothesized that this might be the result of reappraisal, a process by which we dampen the intensity of our emotions by focusing on an intellectual description of why we are experiencing the emotion.
Across several studies, participants read stories describing moral dilemmas involving behaviours participants would probably find disgusting. Participants who reappraised the scenarios logically were less likely to make intuition-based moral judgments.
These findings suggest that although our emotional reactions elicit moral intuitions, these emotions can also be regulated.
"In this way we are both slave and master, with the capacity to be controlled by, but also shape, our emotion-laden judgmental processes," the researchers wrote.
The study has been published in Psychological Science.