“Living Right, Feeling Good” – Professor Andrew Miles researches the effects of moral action on positive emotion

Andrew Miles

Professor Andrew Miles’ new research project looks into the “feel good” effects of moral behaviour. While previous research has shown that helping others makes people feel good, morality scholars recognize that people moralize many ideals in addition to helping, such as fairness, loyalty to groups, respect for authority, and physical and metaphorical purity. Professor Professor Miles is using funding from the Connaught New Research Award to investigate whether whether living up to any of these personal moral ideals leads to positive emotions.

Professor Miles is answering this question using a series of studies, including both surveys and experiments. The surveys will ask respondents questions related to their moral beliefs, behaviour and emotional states, while the experiments will determine whether recalling moral actions or performing moral behaviours that correspond to their personal moral beliefs generates positive emotions in real time.

Answering this question will forge an important link between studies of moral diversity and work on moral emotions and reveal whether the effects of moral action on emotion observed in past research are really “morality” effects, applicable to any type of moral commitment, or attributable to other processes, such as social approval. A general effect means that the scope of moral influence is wider than previously supposed and implies that moral living– by whatever definition – might be a valuable resource in promoting individual mental health and well-being.

Professor Miles is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. His primary areas of research are morality and theories of human behaviour, with a focus on how moral worldviews vary systematically across individuals, and how morality is tied to both behaviour and emotions. He has extensive experience in quantitative research methods and has taught courses and workshops on a variety of methodological topics at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Professor Andrew Miles sheds light on the foundations of moral differences

Andrew Miles

How do differences in morality emerge?

Professor Andrew Miles is currently conducting SSHRC-funded research (IDG 2018) to understand the foundations of moral differences. While morality’s effects are often beneficial for individuals and societies, moral differences can also generate sharp disagreement, as evidenced by continued controversies in Canada and elsewhere surrounding abortion, same sex marriage, and more recently, sex education in Ontario schools.

To build an understanding of the origins of moral difference, Professor Miles and his research team are reviewing published research to determine how social experiences in childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood shape the development of diverse moral viewpoints, focusing in particular on experiences in the family and at school. Key insights will be tested by analyzing a rich data set that tracks individuals from adolescence through adulthood.

In conducting this study, Miles will lay the groundwork needed to construct a more general model of moral development. The findings of this research will inform public discussions and policies by uncovering the roots of moral diversity. Understanding the foundations of moral differences can promote tolerance as people realize that others may disagree with them, not because they are immoral, but because they operate using a different moral compass, thus increasing consideration of each other’s differences.


Dr. Andrew Miles Featured in UTM’s “The Medium”

The University of Toronto Mississauga’s student newspaper, The Medium,  recently published an interview with Professor Andrew Miles. The article focused on Miles’ newly funded research that asks whether adhering to morals can make people happy. His study, “Living Right, Feeling Good: The Effects of Moral Action on Positive Emotion,” focuses on understanding human behaviour (why people do what they do), and identities and values. Dr. Miles, a recipient of the Connaught Fund New Researcher Award, studies such topics as where morality comes from and how we as a society hold certain types of moralities over another.

Professor Miles is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. In addition to his work on morality, Professor Miles is known for his expertise in quantitative research methodologies.

We have included a brief excerpt of the Medium article; the full interview can be found here.

Can adhering to morals make us happy?

Dr. Andrew Miles recently won the Connaught Fund New Researcher Award worth $35,000

Dr. Andrew Miles focuses his research on understanding human behaviour, identities, and values.

You help someone and you feel good. But does following rules and adhering to one’s morals also elicit individual happiness? This is the fundamental question Dr. Andrew Miles, an assistant sociology professor at UTM, hopes to answer with his study “Living Right, Feeling Good: The Effects of Moral Action on Positive Emotion.” Miles, a recent recipient of the Connaught Fund New Researcher Award worth $35,000, sat down with The Medium to discuss his award-winning research.

Miles explains that he focuses his research on two things. “One of them is understanding human behaviour—why people do what they do—[and the second is] identities and values.”

After receiving the Connaught funding, Miles has started to “branch out into other questions about morality, like how people learn morality, where does it come from, what happens in our families as we’re growing up, or our schools, that lead us towards holding certain types of moralities over another.”

Continue reading…

U of T at the 2016 ASA

University of Toronto Sociology at the Annual Meeting of the 2016 American Sociological Association

Our Sociology faculty members and graduate students are very active with the American Sociological Association, with over 60 of them appearing in this year’s program either as presented or an organizer of a panel. See the program for more information. Here are some of the highlights:

Saturday, August 20

Irene Boeckmann

Fatherhood and Breadwinning: Race and Class Differences in First-time Fathers’ Long-term Employment Patterns

Monica Boyd; Naomi Lightman

Gender, Nativity and Race in Care Work: The More Things Change….

Clayton Childress

I Don’t Make Objects, I Make Projects: Selling Things and Selling Selves in Contemporary Art-making

Jennifer Jihye Chun

Globalizing the Grassroots: Care Worker Organizing and the Redefinition of 21st Century Labour Politics

Paulina Garcia del Moral

Feminicidio, Transnational Human Rights Advocacy and Transnational Legal Activism

Phil Goodman

Conservative Politics, Sacred Crows, and Sacrificial Lambs: The Role of ‘Evidence’ During Canada’s Prison Farm Closures

Josee Johnston

Spitting that Real vs. Keeping It Misogynistic: Hip-Hop, Class, and Masculinity in New Food Media

Andrew Miles

Measuring Automatic Cognition: Practical Advances for Sociological Research Using Dual-process Models

Atsushi Narisada

Palatable Unjust Desserts: How Procedural Justice Weakens the Pain of Perceived Pay Inequity

David Nicholas Pettinicchio

The Universalizing Effects of Unionism: Policy, Inequality and Disability

Markus H. Schafer

Social Networks and Mastery after Driving Cessation: A Gendered Life Course Approach

Lawrence Hamilton Williams

Active Intuition: The Patterned Spontaneity of Decision-making


Sunday, August 21

Sida Liu

The Elastic Ceiling: Gender and Professional Career in Chinese Courts

Jonathan Tomas Koltai; Scott Schieman; Ronit Dinovitzer

Status-based Stress Exposure and Well-being in the Legal Profession

Andrew Miles

Turf Wars of Truly Understanding Culture? Moving Beyond Isolation and Importation to Genuine Cross-disciplinary Engagement

Melissa A. Milkie

Time Deficits with Children: The Relationship to Mothers’ and Fathers’ Mental and Physical Health

Diana Lee Miller

Sustainable and Unsustainable Semi-Professionalism: Grassroots Music Careers in Folk and Metal

Ito Peng

Care and Migration Policies in Japan and South Korea

Scott Schieman; Atsushi Narisada

Under-rewarded Boss: Gender, Workplace Power, and the Distress of Perceived Pay Inequity


Monday, August 22

Salina Abji

Because Deportation is Violence Against Women: On the Politics of State Responsibility and Women’s Human Rights

Holly Campeau

The Right Way, the Wrong Way, and the Blueville War: Policing, Standards, and Cultural Match

Bahar Hashemi

Canadian Newspaper Representations of Family violence among Immigrant Communities: Analyzing Shifts Over Time

Vanina Leschziner

The American Fame Game: Academic Status and Public Renown in Post-war Social Sciences

Ron Levi; Ioana Vladescu

The Structure of Claims after Atrocity: Justifications, Values, and Proposals from the Holocaust Swiss Banks Litigation

Patricia Louie

Whose Body Matters? Representations of Race and Skin Colour in Medical Textbooks

William Magee; Laura Upenieks

Supervisory Level and Anger About Work

Maria M. Majerski

The Economic Integration of Immigrants: Social Networks, Social Capital, and the Impact of Gender

Melissa A. Milkie

You Must Work Hard: Changes in U.S. Adults’ Values for Children 1986-2012

Jean-Francois Nault

Education, Religion, and Identity in French Ontario: A Case Study of French-language Catholic School Choice

Merin Oleschuk; Blair Wheaton

The Relevance of Women’s Income on Household Gender Inequality Across Class and National Context

David Nicholas Pettinicchio

Punctuated Incrementalism: How American Disability Rights Policymaking Sheds Light on Institutional Continuity and Change


Tuesday, Aug. 23

Katelin Albert

Making the Classroom, Making Sex Ed: A School-based Ethnography of Ontario’s Sexual Health Classrooms

Catherine Man Chuen Cheng

Constructing Immigrant Citizen-subjects in Exceptional States: Governmentality and Chinese Marriage Migrants in Taiwan and HongKong

Hae Yeon Choo

Maternal Guardians: Intimate Labor, Migration, and the Pursuit of Gendered Citizenship in South Korea

Bonnie H. Erickson

Multiple Pathways to Ethnic Social Capitals

  1. Omar Faruque

Confronting Capital: The Limits of Transnational Activism and Human Rights-based CSR Initiatives

Elise Maiolino

I’m not Male, not White, Want to Start There?: Identity Work in Toronto’s Mayoral Election

Jaime Nikolaou

Commemorating Morgentaler? Reflections on Movement Leadership, 25 Years Later

Kristie O’Neill

Traditional Beneficiaries: Trade Bans, Exemptions, and Morality Embodied in Diets

Matthew Parbst; Blair Wheaton

The Buffering Role of the Welfare State on SES differences in Depression

Luisa Farah Schwartzman

Brazilian Lives Matter, and what Race and the United States Got to do With it

Daniel Silver

Visual Social Thought

Laura Upenieks

Beyond America? Cross-national Contexts and Religious versus Secular Membership Effects on Self-rated Health

Barry Wellman

Older Adults Networking On and Off Digital Media: Initial Findings from the Fourth East York Study

Blair Wheaton; Patricia Joy Louie

A New Perspective on Maternal Employment and Child Mental Health: A Cautionary Tale

Tony Huiquan Zhang

Weather Effects on Social Movements: Evidence from Washington D.C. and New York City, 1960-1995