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Abstract

This article addresses the question of why the emotions children and adolescents anticipate in the context of hypothetical scenarios have been repeatedly found to predict actual (im)moral behavior. It argues that a common motivational account of this relationship is insufficient. Instead, three links are proposed that connect cognitive representations of emotional experiences related to future (im)moral actions with decision making and action. Accordingly, it is argued that moral emotion attributions can represent a dominant desire (link 1), outcome expectancies (link 2), or an emotional response to anticipated (in)consistencies of the self (link 3). These three links exemplify different forms of moral agency that emerge in the course of children's and adolescents' development.