Moods & moral standings

Bad moods are completely contagious. I should know I’ve grown up around them. But did you know bad moods can change our moral standings too?

Research has now been carried out by a group of German researchers whose work has been published in ‘Cognition’ and their conclusion is that our moods can greatly influence how we respond to hypothetical situations.

Why does the process change or influence our moral decisions?

Their research shows there is a difference between personal moral decisions, where we are familiar with the people involved in those decisions and impersonal moral decisions, where we are detached from the people involved, such as whether to keep the money we find in a lost wallet.

The research also found that those areas of the brain thought to be responsible for processing emotional information, seems to be more strongly engaged when making personal, rather than impersonal moral decisions. The scientists involved in the research concluded that emotions play a strong role in these personal moral judgments, when the more calculating reasoning part of our mind is resting.

It would be easy to think that any moral decision we make is done to spite, but we now know a bad mood may greatly influence our decision on the moral issue.


3 Aug, 2013

8 thoughts on “Moods & moral standings

  1. I agree. Bad moods are contagious. I can be feeling great and get around someone who is not feeling so great and I’m the one whose mood changes, not the other way around.

    I just keep saying so many times ‘you have to keep positive!’ We need to try to change the other person’s mood before they change ours.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I agree with you but that’s not easy to do. It also becomes particularly difficult when our moods influence how we respond to those hypothetical situations.

      I tend to steer clear of someone who is clearly in a bad mood, either that or I will say something, them move away. It’s really whatever works for us.

  2. I have occasional mood swings like many people do, but I don’t think my moral decisions will be adversely affected by my mood at any particular time.

    My moral compass doesn’t fluctuate depending upon my mood. I can see where incidents of mental instability can influence a person’s moral decision, but not one’s mood.

    1. I am mot sure whether this is all done on a conscious level or not. If we were consciously aware, perhaps we would make a different decision.

      This does make sense to a certain degree, but I would think that the decisions we go on to make, may also have a lot to do with other issues we may be dealing with at the time, that we’re not always consciously aware of.

      I have seen people make different decisions out of spite, but that doesn’t seem to be the same thing.

  3. Negativity is something I definitely grew up with so quite often it affected my moral decisions. We received so many mixed messages it’s a wonder none of us turned into sociopaths with no morals or emotions to keep us from doing horrible things!

    I came to a point where I was doing very bad things, which most parents would have noticed and confronted their child. It totally crushed me in so many ways because I detached from my feelings to the point where I felt nothing.

    It has taken me a long time to break that pattern of always seeking out people and relationships who were very toxic to me. I have wasted so many years dwelling on the mistakes I made and all the wrongs that happened to me in my life.

    The reality is that I never learned or was allowed to stand up for what I believed in or what was right for me. People usually can’t even comprehend what we went through as children which I have to try to remember at times!

    My niece is now really struggling with this issue at 14 on top of so many other issues in her life. She says she feels like she has a hole in her heart and a darkness inside of her which I know from experience is only going to get so much worse.

    It’s just truly sad because she’s such a sweet loving young lady and there are many out there who will try to take advantage of her like they did with me. I’ll have to make sure to have a long talk with her soon so she won’t feel so all alone.

    1. I agree with you. It’s sad when another generation has to go through what we have perhaps had to go through. I also agree with you that our experiences must on some level interfere with our moral standings, but it’s difficult to know for sure.

      I think more clarification on this would help. In the meantime I hope you can help your niece. I think with your vast experience Randy, you’ll be able to help your niece do things differently so that she doesn’t have to go on to experience all you have experienced. She’s still very young, her experiences will be very minor.

      Helping her should also help you too.

  4. I tend to agree with Tim here and wonder whether moral moods and mental state may have got lost in the translation from the German research.

    We all have good and bad mood days, but I have to say my moral position on any issue wouldn’t change as a result.

    1. Unconsciously we may not realise that is what we’re doing.

      I don’t believe We can be consciously aware all of the time. Perhaps this is one such circumstance! Just a thought.

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