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The Relation of Moral Emotion Attributions to Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior: A Meta-Analysis


  • The authors are grateful to Isabella Schwyzer for her help in data coding. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tina Malti, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, ON L5L1C6, Canada. Electronic mail may be sent to


This meta-analytic review of 42 studies covering 8,009 participants (ages 4–20) examines the relation of moral emotion attributions to prosocial and antisocial behavior. A significant association is found between moral emotion attributions and prosocial and antisocial behaviors (= .26, 95% CI [.15, .38]; = .39, 95% CI [.29, .49]). Effect sizes differ considerably across studies and this heterogeneity is attributed to moderator variables. Specifically, effect sizes for predicted antisocial behavior are larger for self-attributed moral emotions than for emotions attributed to hypothetical story characters. Effect sizes for prosocial and antisocial behaviors are associated with several other study characteristics. Results are discussed with respect to the potential significance of moral emotion attributions for the social behavior of children and adolescents.