Do people expect that one feels good after breaking a moral rule like not harming someone? Or do they expect negative feelings like guilt and shame? Developmental research has shown that most preschool children indeed attribute positive feelings to a hypothetical rule breaker, although they know that the transgression is wrong. This so-called Happy Victimizer Phenomenon, conceptualized as a developmental transition, normally disappears during middle childhood. However, a growing body of research indicates that this does not seem to be the case: Both, adolescents and adults show corresponding patterns of attributing positive feelings to a moral rule breaker while judging the transgression as wrong. These patterns emerge in particular situations, like for example moral temptations. Depending on the actual scenario and method of measurement, up to 50% of adolescents and adults in normal samples reason in this way. The Special issue provides both conceptual insights and empirical results on the various reasoning patterns displayed by adolescents and adults. It also includes a critical discussion by the original researchers of the Happy Victimizer Phenomenon in childhood.


Prof. Dr. Eveline Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger
Prof. Dr. Karin Heinrichs