Do Moral Choices Make Us Feel Good? The Development of Adolescents’ Emotions Following Moral Decision Making


  • This research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors would like to express their sincere thanks to the children and parents for participating in the study. Moreover, the authors are grateful to all the interviewers and undergraduate students for their help in data collection and coding.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Tina Malti, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, ON L5L1C6, Canada. E-mail:


Some people believe that making the morally right decision makes people feel good. However, until now, there has been no empirical evidence in support of this belief. In a representative two-wave longitudinal study of 995 15-year-old adolescents followed for 3 years (until the age of 18) in Switzerland, adolescents were asked about their decisions and emotions following hypothetical dilemmas involving moral obligations versus self-interest. Adolescents predominantly made moral decisions and reported feeling good following these decisions. With age, participants reported more positive emotions following moral decisions. A small number of adolescents made selfish decisions and reported feeling good following these decisions.