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PLoS One. 2013 May 28;8(5):e65094. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065094. Print 2013.

Temporal dynamics of disgust and morality: an event-related potential study.

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  • 1College of Education Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, PR China.


Disgust is argued to be an emotion that motivates the avoidance of disease-causing entities in the physical domain and unacceptable behaviors in the social-moral domain. Empirical work from behavioral, physiological and brain imaging studies suggests moral judgments are strongly modulated by disgust feelings. Yet, it remains unclear how they are related in the time course of neural processing. Examining the temporal order of disgust emotion and morality could help to clarify the role of disgust in moral judgments. In the present research, a Go/No-Go paradigm was employed to evoke lateralized readiness potentials (LRPs) to investigate the temporal order of physical disgust and moral information processing. Participants were asked to give a "yes" or "no" response regarding the physical disgust and moral wrongness of a social act. The results showed that the evaluation of moral information was processed prior to that of physical disgust information. This suggests that moral information is available earlier than physical disgust, and provides more data on the biological heterogeneity between disgust and morality in terms of the time course of neural activity. The findings implicate that physical disgust emotion may not be necessary for people to make moral judgments. They also suggest that some of our moral experience may be more fundamental (than physical disgust experience) to our survival and development, as humans spend a considerable amount of time engaging in social interaction.

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