Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Suppressing feelings of compassion makes people feel less moral

Date:
March 15, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
It's normal to not always act on your sense of compassion -- for example, by walking past a beggar on the street without giving them any money. Maybe you want to save your money or avoid engaging with a homeless person. But even if suppressing compassion avoids these costs, it may carry a personal cost of its own, according to a new study.

It's normal to not always act on your sense of compassion -- for example, by walking past a beggar on the street without giving them any money. Maybe you want to save your money or avoid engaging with a homeless person. But even if suppressing compassion avoids these costs, it may carry a personal cost of its own, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. After people suppress compassionate feelings, an experiment shows, they lose a bit of their commitment to morality.

Related Articles


Normally, people assume that ignoring their compassionate feeling doesn't have any cost -- that you can just suppress your sympathy and walk on. But Daryl Cameron and Keith Payne of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the authors of the paper, suspected that wasn't true. "Compassion is such a powerful emotion. It's been called a moral barometer," Cameron says. A sense of other people's suffering may even be the foundation of morality -- which suggests that suppressing that sense might make people feel less moral.

The researchers showed each participant in their experiment a slideshow of 15 images of subjects including homeless people, crying babies, and victims of war and famine. Each participant was given one of three tasks. Some were told to try not to feel sympathy, some were told to try not to feel distress (an unpleasant, non-moral feeling), and the rest were told to experience whatever emotions come to them. The instructions were detailed, telling the people who were supposed to suppress an emotion exactly what that emotion was and that they should do their best to eliminate it.

After each participant watched the slideshow, they were tested on whether they believed that moral rules have to be followed all the time and how much they cared about being a moral person.

People who had suppressed compassion did, apparently, have a change in their sense of morality: they were much more likely to either care less about being moral or to say that it's all right to be flexible about following moral rules. Cameron thinks this is because suppressing feelings of compassion causes cognitive dissonance that people have to resolve by rearranging their attitudes or beliefs about morality.

Choosing not to be kind is a common experience. "Many of us do this in daily life," Cameron says -- whether it's declining to give money to a homeless person, changing the channel away from a news story about starving people in a far-off land, or otherwise failing to help someone in need. "In past work, we've shown that people suppress their compassion when faced with mass suffering in natural disasters and genocide. To the degree that suppressing compassion changes how people care about or think about morality, it may put them more at risk for acting immorally."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. D. Cameron, B. K. Payne. The Cost of Callousness: Regulating Compassion Influences the Moral Self-Concept. Psychological Science, 2012; 23 (3): 225 DOI: 10.1177/0956797611430334

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Suppressing feelings of compassion makes people feel less moral." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110416.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, March 15). Suppressing feelings of compassion makes people feel less moral. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110416.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Suppressing feelings of compassion makes people feel less moral." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110416.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

Despite Rising Death Toll, Many Survive Ebola

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) The family of a Dallas nurse infected with Ebola in the US says doctors can no longer detect the virus in her. Despite the mounting death toll in West Africa, there are survivors there too. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins