The project aims to advance scientific understanding of cognitive processes in the young adult mind by addressing the problem: how do emotionally elevating experiences encourage young adults to form intentions to emulate moral excellence? People experience the emotion of elevation when they witness another person performing an act of moral beauty that improves the welfare of others while incurring a cost to the person (e.g. Algoe & Haidt 2009). Elevation can lead to the desire to emulate moral excellence by engaging in charitable acts (e.g. Schnall, Roper & Fessler 2010). The project proposes to develop and test an account of the cognitive processes that contribute to the transformation of elevation into emulation based on the idea that people create counterfactual alternatives to reality when they think about elevating events. Their ‘if only’ thoughts about how the event could have turned out differently enable the formulation of intentions to change. The main activities of the project are to conduct 8 experiments with 400 young adults to test two research questions: how do people create counterfactual thoughts about morally elevating events? And how do counterfactual thoughts about elevating events lead to the formation of intentions to emulate? The project will result in a set of outputs including 2 articles submitted for publication, 6 conferences presentations and 1 article submitted to the popular press. It is hoped that it will result in the outcomes of well-cited publications in leading international journals, opportunities to present at major conferences, and media coverage. The vision for the beneficial long-term changes are to orient research towards cognitive processes in elevation-inspired emulation, to aid the discovery of cognitive facilitators to the translation of elevation into emulation, and to have the enduring impact of enabling young adults to actualize their appreciation of moral excellence by engaging in similar acts.
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