ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (2): 268-275.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00268

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Moral emotion: A new perspective on the relationship between morality and creativity

WANG Botao(), WEI Ping()   

  1. Mental Health Education Center, Xidian University, Xi’an 710126, China
  • Received:2020-03-18 Online:2021-02-15 Published:2020-12-29
  • Contact: WANG Botao,WEI Ping;


Studies on the relationship between morality and creativity have often distinguished individuals’ moral levels by using standards of moral cognition and moral behaviors, and therefore explored the influence of morality on creativity. However, results are often inconsistent and even contradictory. One possible reason may due to errors from moral measurements, since people are likely to modify their responses to questions for moral cognition or behaviors according to social expectations. Thus, the present study intends to use moral emotions as a new perspective to explore the relationship between morality and creativity. Results indicated that creativity can be affected by moral emotions in many potential pathways:
First,moral emotions may affect the range of attention and regulate the level of cognitive processing in participants’ brain through their different emotional valence, and then, to affect participants’ creativity performance. For instance, the positive emotional valence which is contained in positive moral emotions can significantly improve the range of attention and the flexibility of individuals’ cognition shortly. It may also help participants to generate more remote concept association in their mind. All these changes will assist individuals to express their creativity better. On the contrary, the negative emotional valence which is contained in negative moral emotions may significantly narrow the scope of individuals’ attention, reducing their cognitive flexibility, and therefor hindering participants to generate their creativity ideas.
Second, moral emotions may activate moral motivations and mediate the influence of personality on creativity. Positive moral emotions and some negative moral emotions which arouse individuals' willingness to correct or make up for their own faults (such as guilt), will enhance individuals' prosocial motivations, making participants to exhibit more moral and altruistic behaviors as well as enlarging the effects of positive personality traits on creativity. On the other side, other negative moral emotions which arouse individuals’ feelings of powerless and helpless (such as shame), will decrease individuals’ moral motivations. In this case, moral motivations will reduce individuals’ prosocial behaviors and finally impair the effect of positive personality traits on creativity.
   Third, moral emotions may promote individuals to produce more insights and get better creative achievements as it can elicit people to introspect. Moral emotions are also called "self-awareness emotions." Whether positive or negative, moral emotions will guide individuals to switch their attention, focusing on internal self-value and evaluation, rather than the external environment. A series of studies from Kounios et al showed that good self-awareness, the internal integration and coordination for ego, can be viewed as a powerful guarantee to promote the occurrence of insight and to increase the probability of individuals to adopt creative methods for solving problems.
    In addition, moral emotions can also increase individuals' psychological capital and affect people to express different creative characteristics. Specifically, people who often experience positive moral emotions, such as pride and gratitude, are more likely to generate positive attitude toward environment, society and themselves. They tend to own more optimistic and open-mind attitudes and are able to maintain their mental health in good conditions. These characteristics not only promote people to express their positive creativity, making more useful and valued creative products for society, but also reduce crisis events for mental health and inhibit individuals to conceive the evil and dark creativity in life.
Future researches should deeply understand the characters and mechanism of moral emotions; explore the relationships among morality, moral emotions and creativity; and look for new models of moral and creative cultivation.

Key words: moral emotion, creativity, morality, creative process, creative achievement, malevolent creativity

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