Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

A cognitive approach to the ‘happy victimiser’

Volume: 41
Pages: 491 - 508
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2012

The happy victimiser phenomenon has puzzled many researchers in the field of moral development. After having learnt and internalised what is morally right and wrong, young children tend to attribute positive feelings to observed models of their age who explicitly harm other children. This has been mainly explained as a lack of moral motivation or an insufficiently developed moral self. On both accounts, happy victimising is seen as an educational problem and understood in terms of a gap between moral judgement and moral action. Against this view an alternative interpretation is suggested, namely to understand the happy victimiser as a particular form of moral reasoning, to the effect that there is no gap (at least not between moral judgement and moral motivation). From an educational point of view this relativises the whole HV problem. Consequences concerning the proper role of a ‘moral self’ as well as educational implications are discussed.