5. What the emotions tell us about values

Values and moral foundations are at our core. Our day-to-day emotional responses and our decision-making are built on them.

Lesson powerpoint here

  1. Identifying our values.
  • Give pupils some post-it notes. Ask them to write down their values on one: these are their deeply held beliefs about what is most valuable to them and the way the world ought to be. Their list might include things like family, friendship, loyalty, fairness, justice.
  • On the other post-it notes, ask them to make a list of the things that other people do or say which piss them off.
  • Ask for examples and also ask pupils if they notice any relationship between the two lists: they should find that the things which piss them off cut directly across their values: remind them of the links between thoughts and feelings from last lesson. This exercise illustrates the very strong connection between our values and our emotions and that if we can read emotions, we can read values too (e.g. if queue jumping makes you angry, this reveals values concerning fairness).

2. Our values fingerprint (moral foundations theory).

  • Information on Moral Foundations Theory can be found here.
  • Ask pupils to complete the moral foundations questionnaire, which they can score themselves. This provides them with an insight into what their strongest ‘moral foundations’ (values) are and which moral situations are likely to trigger the strongest response in them. There are 5 foundations on the questionnaire. Sometimes a sixth is added: liberty/oppression.
  • Discuss what pupils reactions to their scores are. Point out that our position on the political spectrum of liberal – conservative is thought to be a direct consequence of our moral foundations: liberals tend to be motivated most by Care, then by Fairness and Liberty, whereas Conservatives are motivated by all 6 foundations, but predominantly Authority, Sanctity and Loyalty.

3. Values and moral emotions as propellors.

  • Our values and our moral emotions propel us to think, speak and act in situations with moral content (situations to do with right and wrong).
  • Play pupils the BBC news report from the 1984 famine in Ethiopia. Ask them to identify their own emotional response (using a mood map) and to identify which of the 5 moral foundations watching this clip brings into action. Point out that it was this very clip which prompted Bob Geldof to set up Band Aid and Live Aid.
  • If time, play the BBC interview with Boris Johnson discussing the debate about the European referendum of 2016. Ask pupils to identify which moral foundations Johnson is appealing to (e.g. liberty in his comments about sovereignty), to try to encourage people to agree with him and vote to leave the EU. Again, point out how this appeal to moral foundations creates a strong emotional response which profoundly influences thought, speech and action.