Research suggests that moral judgments are often based on emotional reactions.
In some cases, however, we seem to be able to override these initial reactions.
Matthew Feinberg and colleagues hypothesized that this might be the result of reappraisal, a process by which we dampen the intensity of our emotions by focusing on an intellectual description of why we are experiencing the emotion.
Across several studies, participants read stories describing moral dilemmas involving behaviors participants would probably find disgusting. Participants who reappraised the scenarios logically were less likely to make intuition-based moral judgments. These findings suggest that although our emotional reactions elicit moral intuitions, these emotions can also be regulated.
"In this way," the researchers write, "we are both slave and master, with the capacity to be controlled by, but also shape, our emotion-laden judgmental processes." [emphasis mine]