Undergraduate Honours Theses
Mainly studied in the context of military veterans, “moral injury” refers to extreme guilt and shame experienced as a result of perpetrating, bearing witness to, or failing to prevent events that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. The current pilot study aimed to examine the potential use of a brief values affirmation intervention in the treatment of moral injury associated with everyday moral transgressions. This study included 90 participants recruited from Amazon’s MTurk. Participants completed a survey in which they were assigned to complete either a values affirmation or control task, recall a moral transgression, and reflect on the recalled event. It was hypothesized that participants in the values affirmation condition would experience less shame and guilt associated with the recall of a moral transgression than the control condition, and this effect was expected to be mediated by participant’s perceptions of the event as morally injurious. Results indicate that the values affirmation had a significant effect on shame, but not moral injury or guilt. Observed patterns suggest that the values affirmation tended to increase, rather than decrease moral injury. Implications of the findings, limitations of the methodology, and potential directions for future research are discussed.
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Thesis Advisor(s): Dr. Irene Cheung