Moral migration: Desires to become more empathic predict changes in moral foundations

Ivar R. Hannikainen, Nathan W. Hudson, William J. Chopik, Daniel A. Briley, Jaime Derringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many people want to change their personality traits—and research on volitional change has documented their success in doing so. In the present study, we examine whether people also wish to change their levels of empathy, and whether these desires precede shifts in dispositional empathy and morality over a 15-week period. We recorded participants’ change goals, followed by weekly measurements of empathic concern and perspective-taking, as well as moral foundations. Results indicated that most participants wished to cultivate empathic concern and, especially, perspective-taking. Those who sought to develop these qualities tended to actually do so at a faster rate than their peers who did not—and, as a consequence, also drifted toward a characteristically liberal, individualizing morality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104011
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Adult personality development
  • Empathy
  • Moral foundations
  • Volitional change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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