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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Dec;97(6):963-76. doi: 10.1037/a0017423.

Disgust and the moralization of purity.

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Department of Psychology, Institute of Personality and Social Research, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650, USA.


Guided by appraisal-based models of the influence of emotion upon judgment, we propose that disgust moralizes--that is, amplifies the moral significance of--protecting the purity of the body and soul. Three studies documented that state and trait disgust, but not other negative emotions, moralize the purity moral domain but not the moral domains of justice or harm/care. In Study 1, integral feelings of disgust, but not integral anger, predicted stronger moral condemnation of behaviors violating purity. In Study 2, experimentally induced disgust, compared with induced sadness, increased condemnation of behaviors violating purity and increased approval of behaviors upholding purity. In Study 3, trait disgust, but not trait anger or trait fear, predicted stronger condemnation of purity violations and greater approval of behaviors upholding purity. We found that, confirming the domain specificity of the disgust-purity association, disgust was unrelated to moral judgments about justice (Studies 1 and 2) or harm/care (Study 3). Finally, across studies, individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely than individuals of higher SES to moralize purity but not justice or harm/care.

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