"Living Right, Feeling Good" – Professor Andrew Miles researches the effects of moral action on positive emotion

January 18, 2019 by Kate Paik

Professor Andrew Miles' new research project looks into the "feel good" effects of moral behaviour. While previous research has shown that helping others makes people feel good, morality scholars recognize that people moralize many ideals in addition to helping, such as fairness, loyalty to groups, respect for authority, and physical and metaphorical purity. Professor Professor Miles is using funding from the Connaught New Research Award to investigate whether whether living up to any of these personal moral ideals leads to positive emotions.

Professor Miles is answering this question using a series of studies, including both surveys and experiments. The surveys will ask respondents questions related to their moral beliefs, behaviour and emotional states, while the experiments will determine whether recalling moral actions or performing moral behaviours that correspond to their personal moral beliefs generates positive emotions in real time.

Answering this question will forge an important link between studies of moral diversity and work on moral emotions and reveal whether the effects of moral action on emotion observed in past research are really “morality” effects, applicable to any type of moral commitment, or attributable to other processes, such as social approval. A general effect means that the scope of moral influence is wider than previously supposed and implies that moral living– by whatever definition – might be a valuable resource in promoting individual mental health and well-being.

Professor Miles is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. His primary areas of research are morality and theories of human behaviour, with a focus on how moral worldviews vary systematically across individuals, and how morality is tied to both behaviour and emotions. He has extensive experience in quantitative research methods and has taught courses and workshops on a variety of methodological topics at the undergraduate and graduate level.