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Emotion. 2011 Jun;11(3):637-46. doi: 10.1037/a0022600.

Social justifications for moral emotions: when reasons for disgust are less elaborated than for anger.

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School of Psychology, University of Kent, Kent, UK.


In the present research, we tested the unreasoning disgust hypothesis: moral disgust, in particular in response to a violation of a bodily norm, is less likely than moral anger to be justified with cognitively elaborated reasons. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to explain why they felt anger and disgust toward pedophiles. Participants were more likely to invoke elaborated reasons, versus merely evaluative responses, when explaining their anger, versus disgust. Experiment 2 used a between-participants design; participants explained why they felt either anger or disgust toward seven groups that either violated a sexual or nonsexual norm. Again, elaborated reasons were less prevalent when explaining their disgust versus anger and, in particular, when explaining disgust toward a group that violated a sexual norm. Experiment 3 further established that these findings are due to a lower accessibility of elaborated reasons for bodily disgust, rather than inhibition in using them when provided. From these findings, it can be concluded that communicating external reasons for moral disgust at bodily violations is made more difficult due to the unavailability of those reasons to people.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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