Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Tobias Krettenauer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Cross-cultural research on moral development has documented reliable cultural differences in people’s evaluations of moral and immoral actions. Prosocial actions are typically viewed as more obligatory and less discretionary in collectivistic cultures relative to individualistic cultures. While past research mostly focused on moral judgments, it largely neglected moral emotions. The present study was aimed at investigating self- and other-evaluative emotions following (im) moral actions in different situational and cultural contexts. It investigated moral emotion expectancies of Canadian and Chinese adolescents and young adults across different situational contexts. For each culture, 179 Canadian and 193 Chinese adolescents from grade levels 7-8, 10-11 and 1st-2nd year university filled out a questionnaire. Participants were provided with 16 different scenarios depicting moral and immoral actions of self and others in either prosocial or moral contexts. Emotional expectations about themselves and others were assessed following each scenario by asking adolescents to rate various positively as well as negatively charged self- and other evaluative emotions (pride, satisfaction, guilt, shame, admiration, respect, contempt, anger). Obligation/ discretion ratings and Horizontal/Vertical Collectivism-Individualism scales were measured. The main assumptions of cultural differences were confirmed in the present study that Chinese were more likely to hold a collectivist cultural view with more obligations in prosocial contexts and Canadians were more likely to hold an individualist view with more personal discretion in prosocial contexts. In a mixed model ANOVA, significant interactions between situational context (prosocial/moral), types of action (rule abiding/rule conforming) and culture were found for both self- and other-evaluative emotions. Canadian participants expressed more intense negative self-evaluative emotions relative to Chinese participants, in particular in the prosocial context. By contrast, Chinese participants expressed more negative other-evaluative emotions than Canadian participants when confronted with the rule-violating behavior of others in both prosocial and moral contexts. However, regression analyses did not find cross-cultural differences in predicting other-evaluative emotions from self-evaluative emotions in prosocial contexts. Overall, the study points to systematic cultural differences in moral emotions; however, these differences were only partially attributable to moral judgment.

Convocation Year