Social Justice Research

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 208–217 | Cite as

Emotional Intuitions and Moral Play

  • Dacher Keltner
  • E. J. Horberg
  • Christopher Oveis


Brosnan's research on chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys provides invaluable clues to unlocking the complex nature of human morality. Elaborating upon her claims, we explore the role of emotions in basic social interactions, social regulation processes, and morality, all of which may be crucial to both human and nonhuman communities. We then turn to a conceptualization of teasing and play as forums for negotiating norms and the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and focus on the role of emotions in assessing the moral character of others. Finally, we consider points of convergence and departure between human responses to relative deprivation and those observed by Brosnan in primates. We conclude that work such as Brosnan's paves the way for fruitful collaborations between scholars of morality from diverse fields.


Emotion  Morality Moral judgment Emotional intuitions Play Teasing Relative deprivation  System justification 


  1. Apte, M. L. (1985). Humor and laughter: An Anthropological Approach, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Google Scholar
  2. Batson C. D., Shaw L. L. (1991). Evidence for altruism: Toward a pluralism of prosocial motives. Psychol. Inquiry 2:107–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brosnan, S. F. (2006). Nonhuman species’ reactions to inequity and their implications for fairness. Soc. Justice Res., this issueGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown P., Levinson S. C. (1987). Politeness – Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  5. Crosby F. (1976). A model of egoistical relative deprivation. Psychol. Rev. 83: 85–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Demuth K. (1986). Prompting routines in the language socialization of Basotho children In: B. B. Schieffelin, E. Ochs (Eds) Language Socialization across Cultures. Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language. 3. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 51–79Google Scholar
  7. Dunbar R. I. M. (1996). Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language. London: Faber & FaberGoogle Scholar
  8. Eder D. (1991). The role of teasing in adolescent peer group culture. Sociol. Stud. Child Develop. 4:181–197Google Scholar
  9. Frank R. H. (1988). Passions within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions. New York: W.W. Norton & CoGoogle Scholar
  10. Gonzaga G. C., Keltner D., Londahl E. A., Smith M. D. (2001). Love and the commitment problem in romantic relations and friendship. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 81:247–262PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Greene, J., and Haidt, J. (2002). How (and where) does moral judgment work? Trends Cogn. Sci. 6: 517–523 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greene J. D., Sommerville R. B., Nystrom L. E., Darley J. M., Cohen J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science 293:2105–2108PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenwald A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. Am. Psychol. 35:603–618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haidt J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychol. Rev. 108:814–834PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hertenstein, M., Apps, B., and Keltner, D. (2006). Touch and the communication of emotion. Manuscript submitted for publicationGoogle Scholar
  16. Jost J. T., Banaji M. R. (1994). The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 33:1–27Google Scholar
  17. Keltner D., Capps L., Kring A. M., Young R. C., Heerey E. A. (2001). Just teasing: A conceptual analysis and empirical review. Psychol. Bull. 127:229–248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Keltner, D., Haidt, J., and Shiota, M. (In press). Social functionalism and the evolution of emotions. In Simpson J., and Kenrick, D. (eds.), Handbook of Evolutionary Social Psychology Google Scholar
  19. Keltner D., Young R. C., Heerey E. A., Oemig C., Monarch N. D. (1998). Teasing in hierarchical and intimate relations. J. Person. Soc. Psychol. 75:1231–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lerner M. J. (1980). The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion. New York: PlenumGoogle Scholar
  21. Lerner J. S., Goldberg J. H., Tetlock P. E. (1998). Sober second thought: The effects of accountability, anger, and authoritarianism on attributions of responsibility. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull..24:563–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCullough M. E., Kilpatrick S. D., Emmons R. A., Larson D. B. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychol. Bull. 127:249–266PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oveis, C., Horberg, E. J., and Keltner, D. (2006). Compassion as a moral intuition: The social cognitive consequences of other- and self-orienting positive emotions. Unpublished manuscriptGoogle Scholar
  24. Rozin P., Markwith M., Stoess C. (1997). Moralization and becoming a vegetarian: The transformation of preferences into values and the recruitment of disgust. Psychol. Sci. 8:67–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rozin P., Lowery L., Imada S., Haidt J. (1999). The CAD triad hypothesis: A mapping between three moral emotions (contempt, anger, disgust) and three moral codes (community, autonomy, divinity). J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 76:578–586Google Scholar
  26. Schieffelin B. (1986). Teasing and shaming in Kaluli children’s interactions In: B. B. Schieffelin, E. Ochs (Eds) Language Socialization across Cultures. Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language. 3. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 165–181Google Scholar
  27. Schieffelin B. (1990). The Give and Take of Everyday Life – Language Socialization of Kaluli Children. Cambridge: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Vasquez K., Keltner D., Ebenbach D. H., Banaszynski T. L. (2001). Cultural variation and similarity in moral rhetorics: Voices from the Philippines and the United States. J. Cross-Cultural Psychol. 32:93–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. de Waal, F.B.M. (1996). Conflict as negotiation. In McGrew, W.C., Marchant, L.F., and Nishida, T. (eds.), Great ape societies, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 159–172.Google Scholar
  30. Walker I., Pettigrew T. (1984). Relative deprivation theory: An overview and conceptual critique. Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 23:301–310Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dacher Keltner
    • 1
  • E. J. Horberg
    • 1
  • Christopher Oveis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations