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Abstract

Capitalization is an interpersonal process in which individuals (capitalizers) communicate their accomplishments to others (responders). When these attempts to capitalize are met with enthusiastic responses, individuals reap greater personal and social benefits from the accomplishment. This research integrated the interpersonal model of capitalization with moral foundations theory to examine whether accomplishments achieved through immoral (vs. moral) means disrupt the interpersonal processes of capitalization. We hypothesized that an accomplishment achieved through immoral (vs. moral) means would suppress the positive affective response often reaped from capitalizing on good news. We conducted two, mixed-methods experiments in which individuals interacted with a stranger (Study 1) or with their romantic partner (Study 2). We found that responders exhibited greater self-reported negative emotions, avoidance motivation, and arousal when reacting to capitalizers' immoral (vs. moral) accomplishments. In turn, greater negative affect predicted less enthusiastic verbal responses to capitalization attempts. In Study 2 we found that immoral accomplishments increased avoidance motivation, which contrary to our expectations, increased expressions of happiness. These studies reveal that the moral means by which accomplishments are achieved can disrupt the interpersonal process of capitalization. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 1
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Evil joy is hard to share: Negative affect attenuates interpersonal capitalizing on
immoral deeds
Michał Misiak a.*, Maciej Behnke a, Brett Peters b, Martyna Dziekan a, Michał Kosakowski a,
Łukasz D. Kaczmarek a
a. Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University,
ul. Szamarzewskiego 89AB, 60-568 Poznań, POLAND
b. College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio University, OH 45701, Athens, USA
Author Note
This study was funded by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education Diamond Grant to
Michał Misiak (DI2014011344). Michał Misiak was also supported by scholarship of the Foundation for Polish
Science (START) and by the scholarship of the National Science Centre (2020/36/T/HS6/00256). Maciej
Behnke was supported by doctoralscholarships from National Science Centre in Poland (UMO-
2019/32/T/HS6/00039) and Adam Mickiewicz University Foundation. Łukasz D. Kaczmarek was supported by
the National Science Centre, Poland (UMO-2014/15/B/HS6/02418).
We thank Magdalena Gimzicka for her help with data processing and comments on the initial draft of
the article.
The work described in the manuscript was conducted at the Institute of Psychology, Adam Mickiewicz
University. Currently, Michał Misiak stays at the University of Wroclaw.
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michał Misiak, Institute of Psychology,
University of Wroclaw, ul. Dawida 1, 50-527 Wrocław, POLAND
E-mail: michal.misiak@uwr.edu.pl
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Abstract
Capitalization is an interpersonal process in which individuals (capitalizers) communicate
their accomplishments to others (responders). When these attempts to capitalize are met with
enthusiastic responses, individuals reap greater personal and social benefits from the
accomplishment. This research integrated the interpersonal model of capitalization with moral
foundations theory to examine whether accomplishments achieved through immoral (vs.
moral) means disrupt the interpersonal processes of capitalization. We hypothesized that an
accomplishment achieved through immoral (vs. moral) means would suppress the positive
affective response often reaped from capitalizing on good news. We conducted two, mixed-
methods experiments in which individuals interacted with a stranger (Study 1) or with their
romantic partner (Study 2). We found that responders exhibited greater self-reported negative
emotions, avoidance motivation, and arousal when reacting to capitalizers’ immoral (vs.
moral) accomplishments. In turn, greater negative affect predicted less enthusiastic verbal
responses to capitalization attempts. In Study 2 we found that immoral accomplishments
increased avoidance motivation, which contrary to our expectations, increased expressions of
happiness. These studies reveal that the moral means by which accomplishments are achieved
can disrupt the interpersonal process of capitalization.
Keywords: capitalization, Moral Foundations Theory, negative affect, dyadic interactions,
InterCAP
Supplemental materials:
https://supp.apa.org/psycarticles/supplemental/emo0001045/emo0001045_supp.html
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 3
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People tend to communicate their accomplishments to othersa phenomenon known
as interpersonal capitalization (Gable et al., 2004; Langston, 1994; Peters et al., 2018). A
person who communicates the accomplishment, a capitalizer, often receives a reaction from
the other person, a responder. If a responder reacts enthusiastically, which is the most
common reaction, the benefits reaped from the good event are enhanced further (e.g., Gable et
al., 2004; Woods et al., 2015). Notably, the responder may also benefit from the enthusiastic
capitalization response. Responders' good feelings may stem from their close others being
successful, from being compassionate and supportive, or emotional contagion (Peters et al.,
2018). Recent studies by Pagani and colleagues (2020) demonstrated that enthusiastic
responses to capitalization attempts might increase couple identity, and in turn, increase the
quality of a relationship. Furthermore, the benefits of enthusiastic capitalization might be
reinforced by a reciprocal loopan effect driven by people's tendency to reciprocate
enthusiastic capitalization responses (Kaczmarek, Kelso et al., 2021). However, responders do
not always react enthusiastically to capitalization attempts. In the current work, we argue that
one reason responders may be less enthusiastic to capitalizers' good news is the extent to
which the accomplishment was achieved through moral means.
We conducted two experiments in which we employed two different paradigms. By
integrating Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) (Graham et al., 2013)which allows us to
define accomplishments deemed as immoralwith the interpersonal model of capitalization
(InterCAP) (Peters et al., 2018), we aimed to attenuate responders' enthusiasm to good news
achieved by immoral means. Also, through repeated assessment of reactions to the
capitalization attempt, we aimed to observe the affective mechanism responsible for a less
enthusiastic response. Our research program is the first that underscores immorality as a
factor that disrupts the capitalization process and tracks the relevant affective processes
responsible for less enthusiastic responses. Furthermore, our work examines a potential
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psychological mechanism responsible for the degeneration of relationships through the
incompatibility of moral values between people.
1.1. Interpersonal Capitalization
When something positive happens, people often seek others' company and attention to
retell the good event and receive enthusiastic feedback that validates the positive experience
(Duprez et al., 2015). The process of retelling a good event to another person has been termed
interpersonal capitalization (Bryant, 1989; Gable et al., 2004; Hovasapian & Levine, 2018;
Lambert et al., 2013; Langston, 1994). In turn, how responders react (or are perceived to react
by capitalizers) to these capitalization attempts can shape the benefits reaped from the
capitalization process.
Responders' reactions can be classified into four types based on the level of
enthusiasm and engagement the responders displayor are perceived to display (Pagani et
al., 2013). The most enthusiastic and engaged response is defined as 1) an active-constructive
response, which enhances positive emotions of the capitalizer above levels attributable to the
event itself (Demir et al., 2013; Gable et al., 2004; Lambert et al., 2013; Monfort et al., 2014;
Otto et al., 2015; Reis et al., 2010). In contrast, the other three types of responses attenuate or
reverse the positive association between capitalization attempts and positive outcomes
(Lambert et al., 2013): 2) passive-constructive: providing minimal feedback; 3) passive-
destructive: ignoring the event or the partner; 4) active-destructive: demeaning the event or
the partner.
An active-constructive response to a capitalization attempt also benefits the responder
through interpersonal and affective effects. Peters and colleagues (2018) introduced the
Interpersonal Model of Capitalization (InterCAP), wherein responders may share the positive
emotions of capitalizers through emotional contagion. Furthermore, responders may feel good
about the achievement of close others or the fact that they acted compassionately and
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supportively towards them. Responders may also anticipate that capitalizers will, in turn, be
responsive to responders' own future capitalization attempts. For example, experimental
research demonstrated that responders felt more positive and less negative emotions through
active-constructive responding after the capitalization process (Monfort et al., 2014). While
active-constructive feedback is conducive to a range of positive outcomes for responders, we
know little about the factors that may inhibit this type of reaction.
1.2. Moral Foundations Theory
We conceptualized morality in line with the Moral Foundations Theory (Graham et
al., 2013). According to MFT, human moral systems compose evolved psychological
mechanisms that work together to facilitate cooperation and suppress selfishness (Haidt &
Bjorklund, 2008). The MFT framework was developed following the social intuitionist model
of moral judgments (Haidt, 2001). Contrary to previous attempts to scientifically describe
human morality, the social intuitionist model stresses the importance of emotional reactions to
violations of moral norms in guiding human cognitive and deliberative reasoning (Haidt &
Bjorklund, 2008). The affective response is a rapid and automatic reaction to immoral
behavior followed by (when needed) retroactive, slow, and ex post facto elaborate moral
reasoning (Graham et al., 2013; Haidt, 2012; Haidt, 2001). Metaphorically, MFT presents
emotions as the moral "dog" and cognitions as "the rational tail" (Haidt, 2001).
MFT describes five separate categories of moral violations: care/harm, which is
concerned with the physical and psychological suffering of other people; fairness/cheating,
which is concerned with a fair distribution of goods; loyalty/betrayal, which is concerned with
group loyalty; authority/subversion, which is concerned with deference to authorities, and
purity/degradation, which is concerned with pathogen threat and purity. These foundations
are hypothesized to employ separate cognitive and affective psychological mechanisms
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responsible for variation in individuals perceptions of behaviors that are regarded as immoral
(Graham et al., 2013).
Albeit recent research suggests thatexcept harm which elicits compassion, and
degradation, which elicits disgustmoral violations probably do not elicit a specific
emotional response to violations of each foundation. Instead, they elicit a wide range of moral
emotions, e.g., anger, contempt, or fear (Landmann & Hess, 2018). An alternative approach
was demonstrated by Zhang and colleagues (2017), as they did not look at particular discrete
emotional states but used a dimensional approach to human affect. They studied the link
between difficulties in emotion regulation and moral judgments and found that this
positive/negative association was mediated by emotional valence (is the experience positive
or negative?) and arousal (is the experience arousing or not?). However, no study has
dimensionally operationalized the affective consequences of perceiving a moral violation
which has the advantage of yielding more nuanced information relative to a discrete approach.
Importantly, MFT does not point to the morally good and morally bad behaviors in
the normative sense, rather it allows for the description of highly diverse moral attitudes on a
wide range of behaviors. In this sense, MFT allows for predictions regarding what type of
behaviors could be interpreted by some people as moral violations. For instance, some people
may think that there is nothing immoral about disobedience or promiscuity, whereas others
could interpret these behaviors as moral violations.
Morality plays an important role in the interpersonal context. Yet, no extant research
has explored the effect of morality on the capitalization process. People tend to rate immoral
behaviors less permissively (Koleva et al., 2014; Selterman et al., 2018; Selterman & Koleva,
2015; Simpson et al., 2016), and therefore we anticipate responders to be less enthusiastic
when capitalizers attempt to retell their good news achieved through immoral means.
Furthermore, we expect that the association between immorality and less enthusiastic
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responses will be mediated through affective processes (Haidt, 2001). Specifically, we
anticipate that immoral behaviors will be associated with less positive and more negative
affect, which in turn will attenuate enthusiasm. Examining how immorality of deeds
influences responding and how emotional processes mediate these effects will provide a better
understanding of factors that shape responders' behavior a process often neglected in
capitalization research (Peters et al., 2018).
1.3. The Present Research
We conducted two studies to address two main research questions: (1) Does
immorality of achievements suppress responders' enthusiastic (active-constructive) reaction in
the capitalization process? (2) Do affective processes mediate this relationship? Across both
studies, we hypothesized that:
H1: Responders would react less enthusiastically to a capitalization attempt when the
disclosers’ achievements were accomplished via immoral (vs. moral) means.
H2: Affective mediatorsgreater a) negative valence, b) arousal, and c) avoidance
motivationwould mediate the relationship between disclosers' attempts to capitalize on
immoral (vs. moral) achievements and less enthusiastic responses.
To test these hypotheses, we conducted two multi-method studies. In Study 1, we
asked participants to respond to moral and immoral capitalization attempts recorded by non-
close others (i.e., strangers) while their subjective and behavioral responses were collected. In
Study 2, we replicated this approach in real-time interactions with romantic partners. The
studies aimed at extending the InterCAP model with the moral aspect of the achievementa
new factor that may distort responses to capitalization attempts.
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2. Study 1
In Study 1, we hypothesized that responders would react less enthusiastically to
capitalization attempts of immoral (vs. moral) achievements. Additionally, we hypothesized
that this effect would be mediated by affective responses (negative valence, higher arousal,
and lower approach motivation). To operationalize immoral achievements, we used a
theoretical framework for three types of moral violations: care/harm, loyalty/betrayal, and
purity/degradation. Previous research suggested that the perception of these particular
categories negatively impacts interpersonal relationships (Selterman et al., 2018; Selterman &
Koleva, 2015). We conducted a pilot study to develop and validate a set of capitalization
disclosures, i.e., brief success stories that individuals communicate with others (Table 1).
Building upon the MFT (Graham et al., 2013), we created six short first-person stories about
someone's recent success.
2.1. Pilot study
We prepared a set of six short stories (two per moral violation), which presented a
capitalization attempt. Each story had two versions the first version described a success
achieved using immoral means, and the second version described the same outcome achieved
morally. Stories were designed to elicit a psychological response to moral violations a
phenomenon that highly varies between individuals (Graham et al., 2009). It is important to
note that they do not represent morally good and morally bad behaviors in the normative
sense (nor do they necessarily represent the authors' morals or values), and therefore should
not be treated as such.
We conducted an online study to test the validity of the stories (N = 222; 114 women
and 108 men; age: M = 25.9, SD = 3.39). Through a social media link, participants rated the
morality of a stranger's success on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (completely immoral) to 7
(completely moral). We conducted a paired samples t-test to examine whether immoral stories
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are indeed rated as more immoral. As expected, the moral stories (M = 6.16, SD = 1.20) were
evaluated higher on the immoral-moral dimension compared to the immoral stories (M = 2.90,
SD = 1.66), t (220) = -16.75, p < 0.001, d = 2.25. We also tested each story independently and
found that each story produced large effects (all Cohen's ds > 1.91) contributing to the
immorality effects across the study (Table S1 in the online supplement).
2.2. Materials and methods
2.2.1. Participants
This study involved 84 individuals between the ages of 18 and 27 (M = 21.07, SD =
1.93). The sample included 50% women and 50% men (self-identified) to minimize potential
effects associated with the gender of the participants. Each person generated six responses to
capitalization attempts. Thus, the number of cases clustered within individuals was N = 504.
The sample size was determined before any data analysis. A power analysis using G*Power
3.1 (Faul et al., 2009) indicated that detecting small effect sizes of f 2= 0.15, with the power of
.80, would require a sample size of 74 participants for a repeated measures design. We
decided to include 10 more individuals to account for any potential missing data. No
additional data were collected after the analyses. The study was a part of a larger project that
included measures not germane to the study hypotheses. Each participant received a cinema
ticket for their involvement. The Institutional Ethics Committee of the Institute of
Psychology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan approved the study.
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Table 1
Moral and Immoral Capitalization Stories Used in Study 1
Moral foundation
Moral success
Immoral success
Care/harm
I explained to my daughter why
fruit and vegetables are so good for
her health. I taught her to eat dinner
to the end.
I spanked my daughter for not
eating dinner. I taught her to eat dinner
to the end.
Care/harm
I am a volunteer at the shelter.
Today I encouraged a dog to get out
of the cage to the runway so that
someone could see it and adopt it.
Thanks to this, it was adopted by
some family.
I am a volunteer at the shelter.
Today I kicked a dog to get out of the
cage to the runway so that someone
could see it and adopt it. Thanks to
this, it was adopted by some family.
Loyalty/betrayal
I left a job where I was cheated,
and I got hired in another company in
a highly paid position.
I left my job in a family business,
and I got hired in a competitor
company in a highly paid position.
Loyalty/betrayal
I gave an interview in which I
talked about how cool people from
my home village are. The editors
liked it so much that they offered me
a permanent broadcast on their radio.
I gave an interview in which I
talked about how much I hate people
in my home village. The editors liked
it so much that they offered me a
permanent broadcast on their radio.
Purity/degradation
I was at a party and had a good
time with four newly met women and
one newly met man.
I was at a party and kissed four
newly met women and one newly met
man.
Purity/degradation
I married my best friend. We had
a wonderful wedding.
I married my cousin. We had a
wonderful wedding.
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We presented the success stories accompanied by portraits of people who shared the
stories (i.e., capitalizers). We used the pictures from The Warsaw Set of Emotional Facial
Expression Pictures, a validated database of basic emotional expressions performed by
professional actors (Olszanowski et al., 2015) (Figure 1). Faces and stories were
counterbalanced so that each face was presented along with each story across the study.
Figure 1
An Example of a Screen Seen by a Participant During the Capitalization Attempt
Note. An item from the Warsaw Set of Emotional Facial Expression Pictures presenting a
professional actor. Printed with written permission from the database authors.
2.2.2. Procedure
The experiment was carried out in a sound-attenuated and air-conditioned room.
Upon arrival, each participant signed written informed consent. We used a cover story to
mask the study objective based on previous research (Kubota et al., 2013). Specifically, we
told participants that the idea for this study was to share a recent personal success story with
other students. We informed each participant that some of our previous participants were
I spanked my daughter for not eating dinner.
I taught her to eat dinner to the end.
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asked to write down a short story about their recent success and that they were photographed.
We also notified the participant that the computer would randomly choose whether they will
provide their story and a photo at the end of the experiment. To strengthen procedure
credibility, we demonstrated the equipment for taking the photo: a plain white background, a
black cloak to cover the clothes, and a camera. In fact, all participants reacted to stories and
pictures that were pre-prepared and validated beforehand. No participants were chosen to
provide a story or a photo.
Participants completed six rounds where they responded to capitalization attempts
(three moral and three immoral success stories). Immoral and moral success stories were
presented in an order consistent with Latin Square Design: a method used to minimize the
impact of extraneous factors (Richardson, 2018). Each round included a 90-second
presentation of a success story and picture. After each story, participants reported their
affective responses on three scales -valence, arousal, approach-avoidance motivation.
Participants were also allowed to freely respond (via a text box) to the capitalizer's attempt.
2.2.3. Measures
2.2.3.1. Emotions toward capitalizer
We measured levels of valence and arousal responders felt towards the capitalizers
with the self-assessment manikin (SAM; Bradley & Lang, 1994). SAM is a validated non-
verbal visual assessment developed to measure affective responses. Participants reported their
state felt emotions using a graphical scale ranging from 1 (a very sad figure) to 9 (a very
happy figure) for valence and from 1 (calm figure) to 9 (agitated figure) for arousal. We also
asked participants to report their approach-avoidance motivation towards the capitalizer using
a validated graphical scale modeled after the self-assessment manikin (Behnke et al., 2020).
Participants reported whether they felt the urge to avoid or approach their friend, from 1
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(avoid) to 9 (approach) (Marchewka et al., 2014). Motivation scores were multiplied by -1 so
that higher scores reflected greater avoidance (less approach) motivation.
2.2.3.2 Written Response to Capitalization Attempts
Participants were asked to provide a brief, written response to the capitalization
attempt that would be as close as possible to their immediate response to a friend in a similar
real-world situation. Participants were provided with a text box and asked to complete this
entry by writing a brief response that would be sent to the author of the story through an e-
mail. Two independent coders categorized each written response according to the active-
passive and constructive-destructive dimensions of responses to capitalization attempts by
answering the following two questions: 1) Is the message active or passive? (ICC = .89). 2) Is
the message constructive or destructive? (ICC = .97). Based on extant capitalization research
(e.g., Gable & Reis, 2010; Pagani et al., 2015; Gable et al., 2004; Peters et al., 2018), a
dichotomous variable was created such that enthusiastic (active-constructive) responses were
coded as 1 and passive and destructive responses were coded as 0.
We also analyzed the content of capitalization responses with Linguistic Inquiry and
Word Count 2015 (LIWC)a validated computerized text analysis software (Pennebaker et
al., 2015). LIWC counts words in psychologically meaningful categories. Multiple studies
(involving the generation, expression, and regulation of emotions) have shown its validity
(e.g., Settanni & Marengo, 2015; Sylwester & Purver, 2015). Of the available LIWC
categories, we focused on whether responders emphasized their positive emotions (using
words such as happy, good, great, beautiful, congratulations) and their negative emotions
(using words such as cruelty, aggression, fear, mistake, violence) (Gable et al., 2004). We
also used the response length (word count) as a measure of communication and engagement
effort (Schwarz & Baßfeld, 2019). Participants generated average responses of fifteen words
(M = 15.00, SD = 11.51) such as "Your behavior is completely out of my style. I do not
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support it." and "I think you should think about your behavior and not repeat it." for immoral
successes, and, "Well done, keep it that way. "or, "It is super cool!" for moral successes.
2.2.4. Analytical Strategy
To account for non-independence of observations (each participant responded to six
stimuli), we nested responses within individuals and tested a mediational model using mPlus
8.0 (Asparouhov, 2005; Muthén & Satorra, 1995). In the mediation model, we regressed the
binary outcome (enthusiastic vs. non-enthusiastic feedback) (Gable & Reis, 2010; Gable et
al., 2004; Pagani et al., 2015) and continuous outcomes (percentage of positive and negative
words in response) on the mediators ( affective responses to reading the capitalization stories)
and predictors (the use of moral vs. immoral means). A weighted least-square with mean and
variance correction estimator (WLSMV) was used to evaluate the fit of the structural model
with binary outcomes (i.e., did the person provide enthusiastic feedback or non-enthusiastic
feedback?) (Muthén & Muthén, 2012). We calculated RMSEA, the recommended fit index
for the WLSMV estimator, with values <.06 indicating acceptable fit, along with the CFI with
values above .90 indicating acceptable fit (Bentler, 1990).
2.3. Results
Descriptive statistics and correlations are presented in Table S2 (supplement). After
eliminating participants with missing data, we analyzed 444 responses to capitalization
attempts, of which 178 (40%) were enthusiastic. Figure 2 presents the hypothesized
mediational path model of enthusiastic responding. This model fit the data well, χ2 (9) =
13.35, p = .15, RMSEA = .03, 90% CI[.01, .07], CFI = .99. Insignificant paths had no effect
on model fit, Δχ2 (7) = 6.12, p = .53, and were removed.
The total effects of the model supported our first hypothesisimmoral successes led
to less enthusiastic responses, β = -.61, 95% CI [-.69, -.53], and responses to immoral
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 15
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successes contained less positive words, β = -.22, 95% CI [-.29, -.15]. We found no effect of
immoral success on the number of negative words in the response.
We also partially supported our second hypothesis that negative affect would mediate
the association between immoral success and enthusiastic responses. Negative valence
mediated the relationship between immoral success and enthusiastic responses, indirect effect
of β = -.35, 95% CI [-.44, -.27]. Specifically, immoral success elicited more negative valence,
and this, in turn, caused participants to respond less enthusiastically. Negative valence also
mediated the inverse relationship between immoral success and the number of positive words,
indirect effect of β = -.22, 95% CI [-.29, -.15]. Immoral success elicited more negative
valence than moral success, and this, in turn, led participants to include less positive words in
their responses. Finally, negative valence mediated the relationship between immoral success
and the number of negative words, indirect effect of β = .18, 95% CI [.12, .24]. Immoral
success elicited more negative valence, and this, in turn, led participants to include more
negative words in their responses. Figure 2 presents the regression parameters for the direct
effects included in the model.
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Figure 2
Effects of Affective Factors on Response to Moral and Immoral Capitalization Attempts in
Study 1
Notes. Immorality coded 0 = no, 1 = yes, Enthusiastic response coded 0 = no, 1 = yes.
Our study was not sufficiently powered to reliably test our model that simultaneously
included the three subtypes of morality (care/harm, loyalty/betrayal, and purity/degradation).
However, we provide a comparison between moral and immoral successes for each
foundation on the arousal, approach, and valence scales in the OSM (Table S3 in the
Supplement). Briefly, the strongest effects for valence and approach were observed for the
care/harm foundation, whereas the strongest effect for arousal was for the purity/degradation
foundation. These additional results informed our methodological approach to Study 2.
2.4. Discussion
Study 1 revealed that immoral (vs. moral) capitalization attempts led responders to
limit their enthusiastic responses and respond with fewer positive and more negative words.
These effects were partially mediated by negative affectcapitalizing on an immoral success
predicted greater negative valence, which, in turn, predicted less enthusiastic responses and
the use of less positive and more negative words. These results provide a theoretical bridge
between the InterCAP (Peters et al., 2018) and MFT (Graham et al., 2013) by indicating that
Immorality
Enthusiastic
Response
Positive
Words
-.62 [-.68, -.57]
.57 [.45, .68]
Arousal
Negative
Words
-.29 [-.38, -.19]
-.26[-.38, -.13]
-.10 [-.20, -.01]
.19 [.08, .30]
.54 [.48, .61]
.11[.04, .18]
Avoidance
Valence
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 17
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accounting for morality may reveal why some capitalization attempts are likely to fail.
Specifically, capitalizing on an immoral successas operationalized by MFTled to greater
negative affect (intrapersonal process), which predicted greater negative responses towards
the capitalizer (interpersonal process). This is the first study to show that the cause of a
capitalization failure may be due to the morality of the capitalizers' success.
Whereas prior studies focused on the emotions of the capitalizer as a result of
capitalization support (e.g., Lambert et al., 2013), we examined emotional processes that
precede and influence the responder. The strengths of the present study are its experimental
design and multidimensional approach to emotional experiences (i.e., affect, valence, arousal,
and written expression). The main limitation of this study was that individuals responded to
recorded capitalization attempts. It could be that we did not find the hypothesized mediational
effect of arousal and avoidance motivation because the interaction in which the participants
engaged was deemed superficial. It is likely that the participants would experience stronger
emotions and engage in more emotional expression in a more socially-realistic live interaction
(Jakobs et al., 2001; Kalokerinos et al., 2017). We addressed this limitation in Study 2, in
which we replicate our study among romantic couples engaging in a more realistic
conversation.
3. Study 2
In Study 2, we sought to replicate findings from Study 1: we hypothesized that
responders would react less enthusiastically to capitalization attempts of an immoral (vs.
moral) achievement and that affective responses would mediate this effect. However, this
time we tested these hypotheses within romantic couples' interactions. Compared to Study 1,
where participants reacted to a recorded capitalization attempt, we increased the external
validity by allowing the participants to interact with each other through a computer interface
while being physically present in the same room. We focused on violence against children
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 18
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because physical mistreatment of children by adults lies at the core of the care/harm
foundation (Graham et al., 2013). The care/harm foundation is believed to have primarily
evolved to address the adaptive challenge to protect and care for children (Haidt, 2012). It is
triggered by children's suffering or distress and results in compassion for the victim and anger
at the perpetrator. Physical violence as a disciplinary technique is widely criticized by
professionals (Miller-Perrin & Rush, 2018) and disapproved by considerable numbers of
parents and non-parents. In Poland, where the data were collected, there is a seven-percentage
point difference in individuals who accept physical violence as a disciplinary technique
against children between parents (49% acceptance) and individuals without children (56%)
(Włodarczyk, 2017).
To increase the internal validity, we expanded our operationalization of responses to
capitalization attempts by allowing responders to communicate their response non-verbally
through sending a selfie (i.e., a photograph of themselves). Recent work has demonstrated
that facial expressions, such as a happy face, are sensitive measures of enthusiastic
responding to capitalization attempts (Monfort et al., 2015).
3.1. Methods
3.1.1. Participants
Study 2 involved 182 individuals from 91 heterosexual dating couples between the
ages of 17 and 36 (M = 21.8, SD = 2.62). We obtained a balanced sample (50% women, 50%
men; self-identified). The participation criterion included being in a serious, committed
romantic relationship for at last two months (Gable et al., 2012). Relationship length ranged
from two months to 10 years (M = 2.80 years, SD = 2.12). Approximately 45.7% of the
sample was in a relationship without living together, 44.6% lived together, 7.6% were
engaged, and 2.2 % were married. Almost all (97.8%) of the participants had no children.
Each person in the couple had the same role in the experiment, and each person generated
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 19
19
four responses to capitalization attempts. Thus, the number of cases for the analysis was N =
728. The sample size was determined before any data analysis. At the time of the research
design and data collection, there were no established practices for calculating power for
dyadic repeated measures designs. Instead, we conducted a power analysis using G*Power
3.1 (Faul et al., 2009). Power analyses indicated that detecting small effect sizes of f 2= 0.10,
with the power of .80, would require a sample size of 142 participants for a repeated measures
design. To account for any potential missing data, we decided to include all of the pairs of
participants that applied to take part in the study. A post hoc power analysis indicated that at
least 91 dyads were needed to achieve sufficient power of .80 to detect small-to-medium
effect sizes (β = 0.20) (Ackerman et al., 2016). No additional data were collected after the
analyses.
3.1.2. Immoral success stimuli pilot data
We prepared a problem-solving game with eight tasks to create a situation in which
participants' partners (disclosers) might succeed and then share the success information with
them (responders). We developed a set of eight parenting problems in which an adult had to
intervene to ensure a child's safety. Each of the problems had four potential solutions: two
immoral and two moral. We prepared an online questionnaire in which we presented each
problem with corresponding solutions. We asked 41 volunteers to rate each solution (1-7
Likert scale) on the dimension of the intervention's effectiveness. We compared the
effectiveness of each intervention in each problem, and we chose four parenting problems in
which we found at least one moral and one immoral solution that was not significantly
different from each other on effectiveness ratings (Table 2). These four parenting problems
were used in Study 2.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 20
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Table 2
Parenting Problems and Solutions Used in a Task to Evoke a Capitalization Response in Study 2
Parenting problem
Moral solution
Immoral solution
Imagine that your child has made
friends with a group of teenagers
known for their vandalism and drug
use. If your child does not change
their social environment, they can
start imitating their new friends'
behavior.
I am signing up my
child for extra activities
to not have time to
interact with their group
of new friends.
I contact teenagers and tell
them that my child is telling the
teachers that they are taking
drugs. I hope that the group will
punish my child and that they
will stop the relationship.
Imagine that your child does not
want to drink a teaspoon of distasteful
medicine. If your child does not take
medicine, they may become ill.
I tell my child that if
they take medicine, they
will give me great
satisfaction. I try to give
my child the medicine
again.
I am threatening the child
that if they do not take medicine,
they will be punished. I try to
give my child the medicine
again.
Imagine finding out that your
teenage child smokes cigarettes at
school during breaks between classes.
If your child does not stop, they may
become addicted.
I talk to my child
and explain that if they
smoke cigarettes, they
will smell terrible.
I threaten the child that if I
smell cigarettes, they will be hit
with a belt.
Imagine you are the parent of
two children who are just fighting
each other. If you do not stop the
fighting, they can cause themselves
serious harm.
I am trying to stop
the fight by asking them
to stop fighting.
I hit each of the children
and warn them I will do it again
if they don't stop fighting.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 21
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3.1.3. Procedure
The experiment was carried out in a sound-attenuated room with two separate air-
conditioned cubicles. Upon arrival, each participant signed written informed consent. We
used a cover story to mask the study objective. We briefed participants that the idea for this
research was to observe how partners communicate after completing a problem-solving task.
We notified the participants that one of them would be randomly chosen to solve the task that
required high moral judgment and choosing the most efficient way to solve the problem. The
role of the other dyad member was to respond to the problem-solvers' performance on the
task. Unbeknownst to the participants, however, all of them were assigned to the responder
role. Partners were unaware that they both acted as responders because once the experiment
started, they had no physical contact, and their communication was strictly controlled by the
computer-based selection and exchange of pre-defined messages. Each participant responded
to two immoral and two moral solutions to a parenting problem (four rounds). Participants
were instructed that they would be updated about their partners' outcomes but would not be
allowed to watch their partners perform the task.
Participants were told that their partner was considering the most efficacious solution
from several proposed solutions. They were also informed that a panel of experts had
previously determined which solution was the most effective. This information aimed to
ensure the participants knew that the task has correct and incorrect answers. After,
participants received a message regarding their capitalizing partners' success in picking the
most efficacious solution, and in turn, winning $1.50. This message was, in fact, pre-defined
and sent by the participant via a computer and lasted 60 seconds (Monfort et al., 2015).
Disclosers took part in a game and were presented with a set of eight parenting problems. To
succeed, they had to pick an intervention that most successfully resolved the problem.
However, some methods inflicted physical or emotional harm on the child and violated the
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 22
22
care/harm foundation. Through picking these solutions, the participants affiliated emotional
and physical harm toward a child. If harm-affiliating answers were scored as more successful,
participants won money and shared the information about their success (capitalization
attempt). Despite being morally wrong, spanking is often considered efficacious in controlling
behavior by laypeople (Włodarczyk, 2017; Flyn, 1996; Orhon et al., 2006).
Finally, participants reported their affective response to the solution (valence, arousal,
and approach-avoidance motivation). After that, participants were asked to respond to the
capitalization attempt by selecting and sending a short, pre-defined message to their partner,
along with a selfie. As in Study 1, we provided the same instructions for the participants
regarding preparation for the study and compensated participants with a cinema ticket. The
Institutional Ethics of the Institute of Psychology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
approved the study.
3.1.4. Measures
3.1.4.1. Emotions toward capitalizer
Assessments of affective responses toward the capitalizer remained the same as in
Study 1.
3.1.4.2. Responses to capitalization attempts
We collected verbal and non-verbal responses to capitalization attempts (Conoley et
al., 2015; Kashdan et al., 2013). After each capitalization attempt, we asked responders to
send a selfie with a text message. Selfies were taken with a camera located over the computer
monitor. We instructed participants to look at the camera and press the spacebar to have a
digital picture taken. Sending a selfie, e.g., via social media or multimedia messaging services
in mobile phones, is a modern method of communicating emotions (Manovich et al., 2017).
We measured the intensity of happiness expressed in the photo using a validated facial
expression analysis software Quantum Sense (Quantum CX, Poland; Kaczmarek et al., 2019).
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 23
23
Participants sent a selfie and a short pre-defined message adapted from prior
capitalization research (Lambert et al., 2013; Monfort et al., 2014; Reis et al., 2010). We
provided a range of five choices that included messages that were enthusiastic (active-
constructive; e.g., "Wonderful! You did a great job!") or passive and/or destructive (e.g., "Ok.
Good;" “I bet the task wasn't very hard’;” “Not much happening here”). For the fifth option,
responders could choose to refrain from communicating and not send a message. Like Study
1, the responses to capitalization attempts were dichotomized into enthusiastic vs. non-
enthusiastic responses.
3.2.4. Analytic strategy
We used a similar analytical strategy as in Study 1 and tested hypotheses with path
analysis using mPlus 8.0 (Asparouhov, 2005; Muthén & Satorra, 1995). We conducted a
three-level path analytical model to account for dependency within-person (level 2) and
within romantic couples (level 3). In the mediation model, the binary outcome (enthusiastic
vs. non-enthusiastic verbal responses) and continuous outcome (percentage of a smile on
selfie) were regressed on the mediators (affective response to partners’ success) and
experimental condition (the use of moral vs. immoral means)
1
. As in Study 1, a binary
outcome was used to reflect whether responders' feedback was enthusiastic or non-
enthusiastic. Bayesian correction estimator (Bayes) was used to evaluate the path analytical
three-level model fit with binary outcomes (Muthén & Muthén, 2012). We used the Bayesian
Posterior Predictive to evaluate model fit. A well-fitting model should have a PPp value
around 0.50 combined with a symmetric 95% credibility interval centered on zero (Muthén,
2010; Van de Schoot et al., 2014).
1
Following a Reviewers' suggestion we explored potential effects of including relationship
duration in our model. The Supplement presents the results of the analyses.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 24
24
3.3. Results
Descriptive statistics and correlations are presented in Table S4 (Supplement). After
eliminating participants with missing data, we analyzed 736 responses to capitalization
attempts, of which 256 (35%) were enthusiastic. The mediation path model of enthusiastic
responding is presented in Figure 3. This model fit the data well, PPp = .50, 95% CI [-16.31,
24.64].
We replicated the results from Study 1, supported both of our hypotheses, and found
an unexpected effect of avoidance motivation on the expression of happiness. Although we
found no direct effect of the immoral success capitalization attempt on the response, results
revealed significant indirect effects of this association with negative valence and avoidance
motivation. Negative valence mediated the relationship between immoral success and
enthusiastic responses, indirect effect of β = -.40, 95% CI [-.51, -.31]. Immoral success
elicited more negative valence, and this, in turn, led participants to respond less
enthusiastically. Furthermore, negative valence mediated the relationship between immoral
success and the happiness intensity on the selfie, indirect effect of β = -.07, 95% CI [-.12, -
.02]. Immoral success elicited more negative valence, and, in turn, participants sent less happy
selfies. Finally, avoidance motivation mediated the relationship between immoral success and
the happiness intensity on the response selfie, indirect effect of β = -.05, 95% CI [-.10, -.02].
Immoral success elicited greater levels of avoidance motivation, and this, in turn, contrary
to our expectationsled participants to send happier selfies. The regression parameters for
the model are presented in Figure 3.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 25
25
Figure 3
Effects of Affective Factors on Response to Moral and Immoral Capitalization Attempts in
Study 2.
Notes. Immorality coded 0 = no, 1 = yes. Enthusiastic response coded 0 = no, 1 = yes,
3.4. Discussion
We replicated and extended the main findings of Study 1. We found that participants
who faced their partners capitalization attempts based on immoral parenting techniques were
less likely to respond with enthusiastic feedback. Affective reactions to the immoral success
fully mediated this effect. Specifically, immoral (vs. moral) successes were associated with less
positive and more negative valence, which, in turn, attenuated enthusiastic responding. Study 2
also extended our work to nonverbal self-reported motivation orientations and non-verbal
displays, but in unexpected directions. Greater avoidance motivation was associated with
greater non-verbal displays of happiness. The latter finding was unexpected because we
anticipated negative affect would lead responders to express less positive emotions and that
greater avoidance motivation would attenuate the expression of happiness. Interestingly, one of
the previous studies on capitalization found that people may smile when sending a negative
message in response to a capitalization attempt, and this finding also was described as
contradictory (Monfort et al., 2014). The authors argued that smiling while experiencing greater
Enthusiastic
Response
Smiling
Selfie
-.45[-.50, -.40]
.16[.06, .28]
.66 [.59, .73]
.15[.03, .27]
.34 [.27, .39]
.18 [.11, .25]
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 26
26
avoidance motivation could be a self-regulatory strategy that down-regulates negative affect
(Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). We believe that the same mechanism might have operated in
our study. Future studies could re-examine this finding by directly addressing the hypothesis
that happiness expression indeed down-regulates the unpleasant perception of affective
processes. We think it would also be interesting to examine whether the expressed smile is
spontaneous (Duchenne smile) or work primarily as a cover for genuine emotional experience
(Gunnery et al., 2013).
We used parenting to present the violation of care/harm foundation directed toward a
third person (a child) and not the romantic partner with which the partner was interacting
this could confound the influence of immorality of the act with being the target of the
immoral act. Few participants were parents (2.2%); thus, most participants considered these
scenarios hypothetical or referred to their personal experience in being parented as a child.
This might provide a real-life basis for understanding how violence (or lack thereof) affects
children and builds empathic concern for mistreated children. This follows methods used in
moral psychology based on considering moral scenarios that no one has personally
experienced (e.g., Greene et al., 2001; Koenings et al., 2007; Clifford et al., 2015).
The main improvement of this experiment, compared to Study 1, concerns three
major changes in methodology: 1) Including participants in close relationships increased the
study's realism and boosted its ecological validity; 2) Focusing on the care/harm foundation of
the MFT increased the power of experimental manipulation; and 3) Including a non-verbal
marker of capitalization response highlighted a different channel for communicating a
response. Consequently, we replicated findings from Study 1, but found an indirect effect of
avoidance motivation.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 27
27
4. General Discussion
In this project, we found and replicated links between the InterCAP (Peters et al.,
2018) and MFT (Graham et al., 2013). Namely, individuals were less likely to capitalize on
immoral accomplishments, and this effect was mediated by negative affective responses to
immoral deeds. This phenomenon introduces new elements to the InterCAP model and the
MFT. Thus, our work extends understanding of how ethics work in relationships. Namely, we
present novel evidence of how individuals who perform immoral acts fail to enhance social
bonds. As emotions were the main interest in our work, we also present a suggestive
illustration of how emotions help individuals fuel their corrective response to othersmoral
transgressions. Such a response may be challenging to deliver as it goes against capitalizers’
expectations to receive attention and approval rather than advice or a rebuke (Duprez et al.,
2015).
For InterCAP, we demonstrate that it is worthwhile to consider that responders are
sensitive to the moral value of communicated events and tend to invalidate the positive
experience of the capitalizer if it is founded on immoral deeds. This shows that responders
tend to regulate the immoral behavior of their capitalization partner because capitalizers are
motivated by the urge to validate their experience by receiving attention and empathy (Duprez
et al., 2015). Our study also examined a unique situation in the literature when active-
destructive responses (demeaning the success) seem preferable, whereas enthusiastic
responses might be considered inappropriate. This greatly adds to the complexity of
capitalization research. Previous studies were dominated by the capitalizer’s perspective
where active-constructive or enthusiastic responses are the only category that is considered
desirable by the capitalizer (Pagani et al., 2015). We revealed a context where the moral
perspective of the capitalizer might be different from the responder's perspective. The
capitalizer might have different values or overlook the moral aspect of their deed. Thus,
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 28
28
theories, as well as research, did not account for the fact that at least some responses to
capitalization attempts perceived as passive or destructive by the capitalizer might be
perceived as correct from a moral perspective and serve as a tool of facilitating more prosocial
behavior in the capitalizer by the responder. Despite the cost of invalidation of capitalizers
experience by the responder and possible harm for relationship quality (Gable et al., 2004;
Woods et al., 2015), responders are obliged to dampen enthusiasm and point to negative
aspects of the capitalizer’s behavior in case of moral violations.
We also observed that negative emotions in the responder fueled the social behavior
that undermined the achievements perceived as immoral. This supports the functional
perspective on emotions and indicates that functions of emotions (e.g., anger) might also be
an essential aspect of the InterCAP model. Noteworthy, we observed that emotions were a full
mediator (Study 2) and partial mediator (Study 1) between the immorality of the deed and the
responder’s feedback. This might suggest that models that present emotions as a source of
strategic information on how to behave in a particular social context might be relevant to the
study of capitalization. Introducing negative emotions into the capitalization process is an
important extension because, according to the review conducted by Peters and colleagues
(2018), capitalization supports relationships when it leads both capitalizers and responders to
experience positive feelings. We show, however, that there are instances where this
straightforward affective link might break. Finally, a recent experimental study that
manipulated responders’ emotions indicated that elicited negative emotions inhibited
enthusiastic responding (Kaczmarek, Kashdan, et al., 2021). This partially supports our model
replicability and lends further support for our hypothesis (as well as the MFT theory) that
emotions are a critical (rather than spurious) mediator between immorality deeds and
suppressed enthusiasm in responses to capitalization attempts. Diminished valence (or
displeasure vs. pleasure) of subjective experience was the strongest predictor of less
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 29
29
enthusiastic responding. Greater negative valence was related to more negative words, less
positive words, and, in general, interpersonal communication perceived as less enthusiastic by
external observers (Study 1), and less enthusiastic communication and less smiling on selfies
sent to the partner (Study 2). This is suggestive evidence of how a broad range of
communication channels are affected by valence and that messages sent through this channel
are distinctive enough to be reliably evaluated as more negative by observers. We consistently
showed that other aspects of affective experience (arousal and approach-avoidance intensity)
are of potentially less importance. Thus, valence might be considered an adequate proxy to
the experience of responders used in future studies and theory building.
Our findings add to the studies within the MFT (Graham et al., 2013). Whereas most
previous MFT studies were focused on how individuals cope with negative events (e.g.,
Milesi et al., 2020; Selterman et al., 2018; Wagemans et al., 2018), we present how morality
matters for individuals who try to capitalize on positive events, i.e., events that are perceived
by the capitalizer as their achievement or accomplishment. As noted above, our findings
indicate that the regulatory function of moral feelings might extend to the domain of positive
interactions where individuals negotiate whether an event should be considered positive or
deserves invalidation. Finally, from the perspective of MFT, we also present a novel argument
that affect is a strong mediator that explains how individuals respond to immoral deeds. This
is indicated by the mediation of valence between immorality and dampened enthusiasm. In
this instance, the mediation model indicates that immoral deeds led to negative social
responses if responders felt greater negative emotions. This, however, does not exclude the
possibility that other cognitive factors might also be involved in the process.
Our findings have several strengths. First, we believe that we present robust evidence
for the immorality valence dampened capitalization feedback pathway because we
replicated this effect in two studies that differed in methodology. For instance, these effects
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 30
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were functional in a study in which participants simulated an interaction with a friend as well
as a situation in which individuals believed they interacted with their romantic partner.
Second, we used diverse methods (reported affect, lexical analysis or text response, raters,
facial expression analysis) and each of these methods yielded results in the predicted
direction; with the only exception for the link between avoidance-approach motivation (but
not valence) and smiling intensity on selfies. Third, we had relatively large sample sizes,
which allowed us to test less pronounced effects (e.g., the influence of immorality on arousal).
Finally, our studies focused on behavior, which is vital because studies that account for
behavior have become less frequent in social psychology despite their apparent merits
(Doliński, 2018).
4.1. Limitations
Our research program does warrant additional interpretative caveats. First, there is
limited generalizability of the studies as the participants were mostly young adults. Second,
despite providing replications, the effects observed were moderately sized, at best. Third, we
observed a weak but significant direct effect of immorality on capitalization feedback (Study
1). This indicates that other unaccounted factors (e.g., social norms) might have additional
influence on outcomes. Although we based our study on the Moral Foundations Theory,
which emphasized that moral responses are primarily affective, other potential mediators
might include cognitive and attitudinal factors. Fourth, the studies do not allow us to compare
both models quantitively. Although we argue that there are differences in responses to
capitalization attempts between the contexts of interaction with a recorded response and with
real-time interaction with a close other, interpretations should be limited to qualitative
differences. Fifth, the research does not allow us to conclude whether the effects we identified
are limited to highly functioning romantic couples or whether they generalize to other kinds
of close interpersonal relationships. Couples who self-select into this type of study (Study 2)
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 31
31
are typically highly satisfied in their relationships (Monfort et al., 2014). Contempt, criticism,
and stonewalling that are apparent in some low-functioning couples (Gottman, 1994) might
cause a less enthusiastic capitalization, and prolonged adversity could further deteriorate the
possibility of reaping benefits from capitalization (Hershenberg, 2013; Horn et al., 2017). Our
study points to methods that might be tested with distressed couples in the future. Sixth,
despite theoretical, empirical, and methodological reasons to use scenarios with physical
violence towards children in Study 2, other forms of immoral behavior are relationship-
relevant, including intimate partner violence, sexual infidelity, or breaking promises. The
study results might be different if we considered a broader range of care/harm scenarios.
Despite theoretical, empirical, and methodological reasons to use scenarios with physical
violence towards children in Study 2, other forms of immoral behavior are relevant for
couples, including intimate partner violence, sexual infidelity, or breaking promises. The
study results might be different if we considered a broader range of care/harm scenarios.
Finally, we focused on moral foundations that were the most likely to affect interpersonal
relationships (Selterman et al., 2018; Selterman & Koleva, 2015). Thus, the findings
generalize only to foundations that were explicitly addressed in each study.
4.2. Future directions
Future research on capitalization could test instances when a less enthusiastic
response to capitalization attempts is preferable from a social perspective. In our study, we
observed how reactions to capitalization attempts changed if the positive event resulted from
immoral behavior towards a third party. However, further studies on capitalization might
examine scenarios when the event has benefits for capitalizers and costs to their partners. For
example, individuals might share the news with their romantic partners about receiving a
more satisfying job in another cityin this situation, a potential relocation might disturb the
life of responders and the relationship (Peters et al., 2018). It could be that a similar pattern
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 32
32
might be observed when people attempt to capitalize on a success that directly hurts a
responder. Thus, the capitalization theory might be further investigated from the games theory
perspective and zero-sum games in particular (Różycka-Tran et al., 2015). It could be that a
similar pattern might be observed when people attempt to capitalize on a success that directly
hurts a responder. Another instance of beneficial non-enthusiastic response might occur when
responders identify a positive event as harmful to capitalizers. For example, when a
capitalizer shares news that they gambled a lot of their money but got lucky and won. In this
instance, the responders’ beliefs about gambling may conflict with the good news of winning
a lot of money and consequently disrupt the capitalization process. These venues might
contribute to understanding more socially complex situations that involve positive and
negative emotions rather than more straightforward situations (yet less likely to occur in
everyday life) where the capitalizer benefits, experiences positive emotions, and seeks to
upregulate them via socializing with no implications for the welfare of the responder or the
broader social context.
Another way of extending this line of work would be to focus on moderators, e.g., to
verify whether individual differences might enhance or attenuate the relationships in our
model. For example, from the perspective of affective science, attitudes towards emotions
(Harmon-Jones et al., 2011), norms of emotional expression (Hareli et al., 2015), or preferred
emotion regulation strategies (Zaki & Williams, 2013) might serve as moderators in the
capitalization process. These and other differences might also be considered from a cross-
cultural perspective. For instance, expression of sadness (rather than anger) in response to
norms violations is more frequent in some cultures than others (Hareli et al., 2015). Moreover,
past research demonstrated that moral judgments and moral behaviors vary substantially
between different populationsthese differences are associated with cultural norms;
environmental, demographic, and economic conditions (Graham et al., 2016). It could be that
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 33
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people from countries that judge violations of a particular moral foundation more harshly
would respond with stronger negative affect to achievements violating a given moral
foundation. For instance, Chinese vs. Europeans or North Americans judge violations of the
purity/degradation foundation more harshly (Zhang & Li, 2015). This also points to the fact
that further studies might focus on more nuanced analyses of how moral transgressions during
capitalization map onto each moral foundation rather than focusing on some foundations, as
was the case in our project.
4.3. Conclusion
Overall, our studies demonstrated the importance of morality in the process of
capitalization. Results revealed that responders reacted less enthusiastically to capitalizers'
good news if the success was achieved through immoral means, and this association was
consistently mediated by greater negative valence. This finding points to the importance of
the content of capitalization attempta novel perspective within the capitalization literature.
Broadly, this work extends the study of how capitalizers may aim, but fail, to capitalize on
good news achieved through immoral means with responders. Thus, this project emphasizes
the role of ethics in building social relationships and illustrates how emotions assist
individuals in enhancing their moral response to transgressions disguised as achievements.
CAPITALIZING ON IMMORAL DEEDS 34
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