Maggots, disgust, Morals, subjective experience, appraisals, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, subjective experiences, human agency, moral disgust, physical stimuli, physical causes, Phoebe C. Ellsworth, Klaus R. Scherer, morally disgusting, functional features, Spike W. S. Lee Phoebe C. Ellsworth, Comparison, tendencies, Nature Neuroscience, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, anger, physical, physical disgust, Social Psychology, J. Haviland, Personality, Motivation and Emotion, Approaches to Emotion, Disgust and Anger
Maggots and Morals 1 Maggots and Morals: Physical Disgust is to Fear as Moral Disgust is to Anger Spike W. S. Lee Phoebe C. Ellsworth University of Michigan Abstract (242 words): Putrid food, fetid smells, disfiguring diseases, and a variety of bodily products are disgusting. Incest, bestiality, and many moral transgressions are also disgustinG. Doe
s disgust refer to a single emotion, or more than one? Theorists disagree. Many researchers have treated disgust more or less as a homogeneous emotion with a set of prototypical experiential, expressive, physiological, and functional features. Others have proposed two broad clusters of emotional experience, physical disgust and moral disgust, and elicited them using different stimuli. We argue that from an appraisal theory point of view the two kinds of disgust involve different appraisals and thus different experiences, physiologies, action tendencies, and motivations to regulate expression. We hypothesized that physical disgust shares attributes with fear and moral disgust with anger. Using the GRID data, we found that some of the attributes associated with disgust overlapped with those associated with fear, whereas a different set of attributes overlapped with those associated with anger, suggesting two different kinds of disgust, physical and moral. Moral disgust and anger are characterized by a constellation of features-- most notably the attribution of agency to another person, the violation of social norms, the presence of value-laden judgments, and the urge to approach and punish. Physical disgust and fear involve no value-laden judgment, but a sense of weakness/submissiveness and an urge to avoid and comply. These finding raise new questions about the role of agency, emotional complexity, and cultural-linguistic variations in the two kinds of disgust. Keywords: Disgust; Fear; Anger; Morality; Appraisal; Action Tendency Word count (including main text and acknowledgements): 4945 References: 50 Correspondence concerning this chapter may be addressed to Phoebe C. Ellsworth ([email protected]
) or Spike W. S. Lee ([email protected]
), Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA. Lee, S. W. S., & Ellsworth, P. C. (in press). Maggots and morals: Physical disgust is to fear as moral disgust is to anger. In K. R. Scherer & J. R. J. Fontaine (Eds.), Components of emotional meaning: A sourcebook. Oxford University Press.
Maggots and Morals 2 Maggots and Morals: Physical Disgust is to Fear as Moral Disgust is to Anger Disgust is a puzzling emotion. In some ways it seems to be more primitive and biological than most other emotions, but it is also extremely variable across cultures. On the biological side, there is a universal facial expression of disgust (Darwin 1872; Tomkins and McCarter 1964) and it is one of the few expressions already present in newborns (in response to bitter tastes). It is elicited by putrid food, fetid smells, unclean bodily products such as vomit and feces, death and disfiguring disease, and other threats of contamination (e.g., Bloom 2004 Chapter 6; Curtis and Biran 2001; Olatunji et al. 2007; Royzman and Sabini 2001; Rozin et al. 1999 2000; Tybur et al. 2009), and these elicitors are very general cross-culturally, perhaps universal. Disgusting things are warm, wet, soft, sticky, slimy, and bestial (Angyal 1941; Miller 1997). On the other hand, every culture also finds certain practices morally disgusting, and there is enormous cultural, historical, and individual variability in these elicitors: young children sleeping in the same bed as their parents vs. sleeping alone in a separate room (Shweder et al. 1995); blowing one's nose in public vs. spitting in public; women wearing shorts vs. punishing women who wear shorts; interracial epithets vs. interracial marriage. Practices that are seen as disgusting in some times or places are unnoticed or even approved in others. Is there a single emotion underlying responses to physically disgusting phenomena and the dizzying range of morally disgusting phenomena? What is the relation between the universal response to feces and the highly variable response
to women's clothing?
Two Kinds of Disgust?
Maggots and Morals 3
Theorists disagree about whether the term disgust defines a single emotion, or more than one. Many researchers treat disgust as a homogeneous emotion with a set of prototypical experiential, expressive, physiological, and functional features. Particular examples of disgust may deviate from the prototype, but are seen as variations on the same basic theme. This assumption is often implicit, for example, in recent studies of the effects of physically disgusting stimuli on moral judgment and behavior (e.g., Jones and Fitness 2008; Schnall et al. 2008; Wheatley and Haidt 2005) and on the corresponding effects of moral behavior on disgust-related choices (Lee and Schwarz, 2009; Zhong and Liljenquist, 2006). According to some researchers, only physical disgust is a true emotion, and the use of the word `disgusting' to refer to moral violations is nothing but a metaphorical extension of the term as a means of expressing extreme disapproval or indignation (e.g., Jones 2007; Nabi 2002). Royzman and Sabini (2001) argue that `purely' sociomoral cues cannot evoke disgust and that people simply use the term disgust metaphorically to underscore the strength of their disapproval or indignation. They note that the original version of the Disgust Sensitivity (DS) scale included items with sociomoral elicitors of disgust, but these items were later removed due to lack of correlation with the overall DS score (cf. Haidt et al. 1994). In a similar vein, Moll et al. (2005) explicitly pointed out the moral connotation of disgust, which they thought should be properly labeled as indignation and considered as a moral emotion affiliated with disgust (rather than being part of disgust). By implication, disgust was reserved for its physical sense. Using written statements as stimuli, they found that self-reported physical disgust could be evoked with or without indignation. But interestingly, disgust and indignation activated both distinct and overlapping brain areas.
Maggots and Morals 4 Other scientists propose the two broad clusters of `primary disgust', `core disgust', or `pure disgust' on the one hand, and `complex disgust' or `(socio)moral disgust on the other (e.g., Curtis and Biran 2001; Izard 1977; Haidt et al. 1997; Marziller and Davey 2004; Miller 1997; Moll et al. 2005; Rozin et al. 2000; Tomkins 1963). These two clusters correspond to what we would like to call physical disgust and moral disgust. They conceptualize complex, moral disgust as a more general extension or elaboration of basic, physical disgust through cultural development. Curtis and Biran (2001) speculated that disgust as `an aversion to physical parasites...may have come to serve an extended purpose, that of an aversion to social parasites,' whose overly selfish behavior
s harm societal health much as germs harm personal health. In physical disgust we kill germs and avoid contamination; in moral disgust we punish, avoid, and ostracize social parasites. Offering some empirical support for this idea, Chapman et al. (2009) found that physical contamination and immoral acts elicited the same facial response of oralnasal rejection. By far the most common methodological approach to examining the two kinds of disgust has been to compare different elicitors. In a review of the empirical literature on elicitors of disgust, Rozin et al. (2000) identified what they called core disgust, animal-reminder disgust, interpersonal disgust, and moral disgust (see also Barker and Davey 1997; Haidt et al. 1994; Marzillier and Davey 2004). Borg et al. (2008) elicited disgust with pathogen-related acts, incestuous acts, and nonsexual acts. They found that participants' self-reported disgust reactions were considerably stronger to pathogen-related and incestuous acts than to nonsexual acts. The three categories of elicitors entrained both common and unique brain networks, revealing discriminant validity at both phenomenological and neurological level
s. This distinction holds up in patients with Huntington's disease, who show impairments in generating examples of situations that elicit physical disgust but have no trouble generating examples that elicit moral
Maggots and Morals 5 disgust (Hayes et al. 2007). This careful attention to differences in elicitors does not extend to research on differences in the experience or consequences of physical and moral disgust. Many researchers seem to assume that the two kinds of disgust, once elicited, are qualitatively the same and involve the same components and processes. Challenging this assumption, Marzillier and Davey (2004) showed that physical disgust and moral disgust were not only elicited by different clusters of stimuli, but also showed different emotional profiles. Moral disgust recruited other negative emotions such as sadness, contempt, fear, and anger, but physical disgust showed no evidence of heightened ratings for any of these negative emotions. Simpson et al. (2006) also found that physical and moral disgust were associated with different self-reported emotional responses, and showed different time courses and gender effects. Taken together, these prior findings suggest that physical disgust and moral disgust are two rather different emotional experiences. The goal of our research is to add to this analysis an exploration of the other components of physical and moral disgust: the appraisals, the action tendencies, and the subjective experience. We begin with the assumption that different kinds of elicitors almost certainly involve different appraisals. We argue that from an appraisal theory point of view (e.g., Frijda 1986; Scherer 1984; Smith and Ellsworth 1985) the two kinds of disgust involve different appraisals and thus different experiences, physiologies, action tendencies and motivations to regulate expression. We hypothesize that moral disgust is characterized by a constellation of features most notably the attribution of agency to another person that overlaps with the elements of anger; physical disgust is closer to fear. The distinction may be appreciated by comparing physically disgusting situations (e.g., drinking a glass of milk and discovering a cockroach at the bottom; seeing a man with his intestines exposed after an accident) with morally disgusting situations (e.g., hearing a banker say to a Black man, `We don't serve niggers in this bank'; seeing a doctor fondle an
Maggots and Morals 6 anesthetized female patient's breasts before an operation when he thinks no one is around; Lee and Ellsworth 2009). Of course, physical disgust and moral disgust are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of situations where they co-occur and indeed their intensities may correlate or mutually reinforce each other. But our goal in this chapter is to highlight their distinctive features, as opposed to the usual focus on their shared features or lack of distinction. In so doing, we highlight disgust-fear commonalities and disgust-anger commonalities in addition to the disgustfear differences and disgust-anger differences emphasized in studies of facial expression (Susskind et al. 2008; Whalen and Kleck 2008). Appraisals, Action Tendencies, Subjective Experiences, and Regulation of Physical Disgust and Moral Disgust in Relation to Fear and Anger Morality is social. It describes `a code of conduct put forward by a society' (Gert 2008). Forces of nature, inanimate objects, and animals do not commit immoral acts. People do. The experience of moral disgust, therefore, necessitates (a) the presence of an agent (b) who behaves in a way that violates societal norms or personal standards. These conditions characterize the prototypical morally disgusting situations we mentioned earlier (e.g., seeing a doctor fondle an anesthetized female patient's breasts), but are not necessary to evoke physical disgust (e.g., drinking milk with a roach in it). Contrasts between the two kinds of disgust for these situations have important implications. The presence of a specific agent in moral disgust provides a target (the wrongdoer) to whom perceivers can attribute responsibility and blame. The social and personal norms by which
Maggots and Morals 7 agentic behavior is judged are generally value-laden, providing perceivers with a sense of justification and righteousness when they feel disgusted by immorality. In order to communicate their moral superiority and their support of community norms, people may be likely to exaggerate their expression of moral disgust. In contrast, physical disgust is less likely to provoke value-laden judgments and censure, because there is no clearly blameworthy human agent. There is no obvious reason for exaggerating the expression of physical disgust. If the social standards of a group are to be maintained, violations cannot be overlooked. It follows that moral disgust should prompt perceivers to change the agent or the situation by means of reprimands, punishment, or other corrective actions. Thus there is a motivation to approach the transgressors and deal with them. This motivation is likely to be coupled with a subjective feeling of power that prepares the person to take action. The absence of perceived agency in physical disgust makes these action tendencies unlikely. Instead, elicitors of physical disgust (e.g., vomit, feces, other bodily excretions) pose physical or biological threats that prompt avoidance. One cleans up a loved one's vomit reluctantly, because one must, not because one wants to. If a stranger vomits, one hurries away. `The behavior associated with [physical] disgust is typically a distancing from the disgusting situation or object. Distancing may be accomplished by an expulsion or removal of an offending stimulus (as in spitting out or washing) or by a removal of the self from the situation (turning around, walking away) or by withdrawal of attention (closing or covering the eyes, engaging in some distraction or changing the topic of a conversation)' (Rozin et al. 1999, p. 430). This avoidance orientation may be accompanied by the subjective experience of weakness and vulnerability. We argue that in the appraisals of agency and norm violation, the corresponding sense of justification, the action tendencies of approach and punishment, and the subjective experience of dominance, moral disgust resembles anger (Ellsworth and Scherer 2003; Kuppens et al. 2003); in
Maggots and Morals 8 the absence of perceived agency and sense of justification, the action tendencies of avoidance and withdrawal, and the subjective experience of weakness and dependence, physical disgust resembles fear (Scherer and Ellsworth 2003; Цhman 2000). These hypotheses, derived from an appraisal theory framework, go beyond simply proposing a disgust-anger association (which has been found in emotion-similarity sorting tasks in several languages; Fontaine et al. 2002; Shaver et al. 1987; Shaver et al. 1992) or a disgust-fear association (Nabi 2002; Olatunji et al. 2005; Simpson et al. 2006). We explore the appraisals underlying these associations, as well as the corresponding action tendencies, subjective experiences, and and motivations to regulate expression. Our conceptual hypothesis, in its most general formulation, is that (a) moral disgust differs from physical disgust; (b) moral disgust resembles anger; and (c) physical disgust resembles fear. We are not saying that physical disgust and moral disgust have nothing in common, only that there are distinctive components and processes that have not been emphasized in previous work. We explore our conceptual hypothesis using the GRID dataset. This dataset contains a single term for disgust and does not differentiate physical and moral disgust. In some ways it might have been better (and a more direct test of our hypothesis) if the GRID stimuli included physical disgust and moral disgust as separate emotions; however, many languages have only one term for disgust, and using two terms might have imposed a distinction on the respondents that was not natural to them. We felt that we could still use the GRID data to explore our hypotheses a little less directly. Our logic was as follows. We hypothesized that some of the attributes that people chose for disgust would overlap with their responses to anger, whereas other, different attributes would overlap with their responses to fear, suggesting two distinct kinds of disgust. Emotion features
that characterize moral disgust but not physical disgust should be reported for disgust but not for fear. Therefore,
Maggots and Morals 9 they should be rated higher for disgust than for fear. Emotion features that characterize physical disgust but not moral disgust should be reported for disgust but not for anger. Therefore, they should be rated higher for disgust than for anger. In seeking to extract as much conceptual utility as possible from the GRID data, we believe that our current approach can provide suggestive, although far from definitive, evidence for two kinds of disgust. In the Discussion section, we briefly describe supportive data from studies using different methods.. Method Participants One hundred eighty-two college student
s at the University of Michigan completed the GRID questionnaire in English. Each participant rated 4 emotions randomly chosen from a pool of 24, resulting in slightly different sample sizes for disgust, fear, and anger (ns = 35, 33, and 34). Analytic Strategy and Predictions To test our conceptual hypothesis that (a) moral disgust differs from physical disgust insofar as (b) moral disgust resembles anger and (c) physical disgust resembles fear, we conducted `perfeature pairwise comparisons' among disgust, fear, and anger in the GRID dataset. We focused on the mean ratings for appraisals, action tendencies, and subjective experience (`emotion features') for which we had a priori predictions. Features on which both emotion terms in the pairwise comparison were rated below 4 (on a 9-point scale) were considered inapplicable to the
Maggots and Morals 10 emotions (e.g., `feeling good' is irrelevant to fear, anger, and disgust) and excluded from analysis. Since the common term in English (disgust) is used in both physical and moral senses, it would obviously have associations with both. Using Smith's (1997) rule-of-thumb for interpretation (see Method section of this handbook), we ran four sets of per-feature pairwise comparisons to test the following predictions: (1) Features on which disgust had significantly higher ratings than fear should be features we predicted to characterize moral disgust. (2) Features on which disgust had ratings similar to fear should be features we predicted to characterize physical disgust. (3) Features on which disgust had significantly higher ratings than anger should be features we predicted to characterize physical disgust. (4) Features on which disgust had ratings similar to anger should be features we predicted to characterize moral disgust. Results [Insert Table 1 around here] Comparison 1. Differences between Disgust and Fear: Moral Disgust People found several appraisals more characteristic of disgust than of fear. As can be seen in
Maggots and Morals 11 Table 1, disgusting situations were seen as significantly more likely to involve violation of social norms, unjust treatment, and more generally, conflicts with one's own standards and ideals. All of these reflected an evaluative sociomoral judgment. Because morality and social evaluation presuppose the existence and involvement of human agents
, these mean differences also imply more human agency involved in disgust. Contrary to our expectations, there were no significant differences among fear, anger, and disgust on the direct measure of another person as agent, although the means were in the expected direction. However, the differences between appraisals of human and situational causes did show significant results. The difference between "caused by someone else's behavior" and "caused by chance" was greater for anger than for disgust, and greater for disgust than for fear. The difference between "caused by someone else's behavior" and "caused by a supernatural power
" were similar for anger and disgust, and greater than for fear. These analyses suggest that human agency was seen as playing a greater role than situational forces in anger and disgust, but not in fear. The consequences of disgusting situations were seen as more modifiable, possibly because the operation of human agency presents clearer opportunities for reprimands and repairs. When feeling disgusted, people expected to have a stronger urge to hurt and command others. Such tendencies to both act against and act upon mapped nicely onto their appraisals that something/someone is wrong and their evaluative judgment that implied I know what is right. Disgust was also consistently higher than fear on such destructive motives as hurting others and destroying whatever is close. Taken together, the appraisals and action tendencies that distinguished disgust from fear depict a kind of disgust that is grounded in sociomoral judgment and that motivates people to act in ways that resemble anger, a point also addressed in Comparison 4.
Maggots and Morals 12 Comparison 2. Similarities between Disgust and Fear: Physical Disgust Disgust and fear were similar in motivating people to stop whatever they were doing and prevent sensory contact. The tendencies to withhold and move away were accompanied by a tone of helplessness, as people also wanted to pass on the initiative to others and simply comply with their wishes. They felt weak, powerless, submissive, negative and bad. The contrasts between the action tendencies in Comparison 1 (act against, act upon, destroy) and Comparison 2 (withdraw, repel, comply) are striking. Comparison 1 showed that disgust differed from fear in that it prepared people to act in more dominant and approachoriented ways, tendencies that were predicted to characterize moral disgust and anger. Comparison 2 showed that both disgust and fear involved avoidance and dependence, tendencies that fit well with accounts of physical disgust as a behavioral mechanism to avoid contamination or disease (Curtis and Biran 2001; Oaten et al. 2009; Rozin and Fallon 1987). Escaping from physical stimuli such as toxic objects or substances, contagious people, or an environment plagued with contaminants makes functional sense and gives physical disgust its behavioral similarities to fear. Comparison 3. Differences between Disgust and Anger: Physical Disgust Disgust was seen as similar to fear (Comparison 2) on features that at the same time distinguished it from anger (Comparison 3). Compared to anger, disgust involved stronger urges to stop whatever one is doing, prevent sensory contact, and disappear or hide from others. Tellingly, in disgust people felt weaker, more submissive, and negative than in anger--the features that captured the similar subjective experiences of disgust and fear. These divergences
Maggots and Morals 13 between disgust and anger matched the convergences between disgust and fear in Comparison 2, arguing for a kind of disgust that feels and functions less like anger but more like fear. By implication, they suggest that disgust is not merely an extreme form of anger. Comparison 4. Similarities between Disgust and Anger: Moral Disgust Some of the features in which disgust resembled anger were the same ones that set it apart from fear (Comparison 1). Anger-eliciting and disgust-eliciting situations both involved appraisals of violation of social norms, unjust treatment, and incompatibility with one's own standards and ideals. People considered both kinds of situations as likely to be caused by somebody else's behavior and to have consequences that were bad for themselves and for others but nonetheless modifiable. These appraisals suggest the importance of human agency in the kind of disgust that has more to do with social behaviors than with physical causes, especially those implicating moral values
. This kind of disgust prepares people to take the initiative and oppose, acting as though they were angry and ready to punish others. Exploratory Analyses In addition to these results that supported our a priori predictions, a few other features emerged as more characteristic of disgust than of fear and anger. People's expression of disgust was more likely to be exaggerated than their expression of fear. There may be a communicative dynamic that is particularly relevant to moral disgust. Because moral disgust implies that `something is wrong' and `I know it is wrong', an exaggerated expression ensures clear communication of this message and may serve as evidence of one's righteousness. The communicative function
Maggots and Morals 14 becomes more obvious when we imagine the converse, i.e., expressing moral disgust less than we actually feel. If a brutal case of incest comes up in conversation and I say, `I think it's understandable. I mean, yeah, raping his daughter is wrong, but human desires are hard to control,' people are likely to be repelled by my perverse moral sense. Exaggerating the expression of disgust confirms one's membership in the moral community. Disgust resembled anger in this exaggerated expression, but differed in that it prompted a somewhat more reparative action tendency. The hallmark behavioral response in anger is to approach and punish. Disgust shared these, but it also involved a stronger urge to undo what is happening, presumably to restore what was before, possibly making it a more constructive emotion than anger. The difference in action tendency between disgust and fear is also interesting. People were more likely to break contact with others and push things away when disgusted than when scared, suggesting a subtle distinction between the fear response that is more about removing oneself from the scene and the disgust response that is more about removing other people or the disgusting object. Summary As summarized in Table 1, the term disgust elicited two separate, coherent clusters of appraisals, action tendencies, subjective experiences, and modes of expression regulation. The ones we associate with moral disgust involve more value-laden judgments, sociomoral concerns, and modifiable consequences. These appraisals imply the presence of human agency. Although differences among fear, anger, and disgust on the direct measure of agency did not reach significance, human agency was seen as more important than situational forces for anger and disgust, but not for fear. They also fit with people's stronger urges to approach and punish,
Maggots and Morals 15 accompanied by exaggerated expression and subjective experience of power and dominance. The ones we associate with physical disgust, in contrast, are seen as involving less modifiable consequences, less value judgment, stronger urges to avoid and comply, diminished expression, and a sense of weakness and submissiveness. Discussion Exploratory analyses of the GRID dataset support the distinction suggested by earlier researchers between physical disgust and moral disgust, but also suggest that moral disgust is not simply an extension of physical disgust to a wider range of elicitors. Instead, moral disgust involves distinct appraisals such as incompatibility with personal or social standards (Scherer 1984) and changes the dominant action tendency from the withdrawal and avoidance characteristic of physical disgust (e.g., Rozin et al. 2000) to approach and attack, from flight to fight. Physical disgust shares appraisals with fear, moral disgust with anger. These findings are preliminary because the presence of one term (disgust) instead of two (physical disgust and moral disgust) in the present dataset allows only an indirect test of the hypotheses and must be supplemented by other methodological approaches to testing the physical-moral distinction. They also suggest several potential avenues for research. Agency Human agency is seen as more important than situational factors in the experience of moral disgust but not physical disgust. How does agency come to be associated with disgust?
Maggots and Morals 16 Developmentally, physical disgust precedes moral disgust. Danovitch and Bloom (2009) found that both kindergarteners and fourth graders respond with disgust to physically disgusting situations, but the kindergarteners are less likely to be disgusted by moral violations. Of course, even physical disgust develops over time: very young children have no qualms about putting food picked up from the floor or even insects and worms into their mouths until their horrified parents teach them that it is disgusting (Bloom 2004 Chapter 6). It may be that once children have internalized physical disgust, they react with disgust to other children who have not. When they see another child put a worm into his mouth, they are disgusted not just by the behavior but by the child, the agent of the disgusting behavior. They blame the child and feel superior, and with the attribution of agency comes anger. At this point our reasoning is sheer speculation, but it is a promising avenue for future work. It is also important to remember that agency is not an all-or-none appraisal. When an action is seen as relatively uncontrollable or unintentional, the perceiver is likely to attribute less agency and thus less responsibility to the wrongdoer, feel less morally disgusted or angry, and call for less severe punishment. A person can be seen as lacking control for a variety of reasons, such as stupidity, ignorance, or youth. If a mentally retarded person is pedophilic or voyeuristic, people may still find the behavior unacceptable but feel less disgusted or angry at the offender. If the purpose of punishment is to change behavior, then an actor whose problematic behavior is unmodifiable may be seen as less worthy of punishment (and elicit less moral disgust and anger). The law of homicide recognizes different degrees of agency, differentiating premeditation, heat of passion, recklessness, negligence, and action under duress, and adjusting punishment accordingly. Children and people suffering from mental illness or deficiency are held less responsible than adults. Our results suggest that the perception of agency is implicated in moral disgust and the motivation to punish. Of course it is rare that we see people as having absolutely
Maggots and Morals 17 no control over their behavior. The fact that human action is generally seen as controllable may explain why the co-occurrence of moral disgust and anger is the rule rather than the exception. Emotional Complexity Another promising future direction is the emotional complexity afforded by the presence of multiple parties in morally disgusting situations--at least two (the wrongdoer and the perceiver), often more (a victim or victims). Perspective can powerfully shape emotional experience (e.g., Cohen et al. 2007; Kross et al. 2005). We suggest that when the real eye or the mind's eye attends to different people in a complex social scene, different appraisals become salient, and different emotional components and processes ensue. Multiple perspectives afford multiple interpretations that generate multiple feelings. Focusing on the perpetrator elicits disgust; focusing on the victim elicits sympathy; focusing on the whole situation elicits frustration; focusing on the self as a perceiver often suggests `I am different from the perpetrator' and elicits a sense of superiority. People's descriptions of their personal experience
s of moral disgust reveal such shifting perspectives and emotional changes (Lee and Ellsworth 2009). Earlier we cited Marzillier and Davey's (2004) finding that morally disgusting events evoke several negative emotions. When people turn the focus onto themselves, their emotion can even change valence from negative to positive as they now feel righteous and superior. Physically disgusting situations are typically less socially complex and thus less emotionally complex (Marzillier and Davey 2004). Maggots, rotten meat, and feces, no matter how you look at them, are disgusting. Whether the focus is on the elicitor itself, on the whole situation, or on yourself as a perceiver, the appraisals seem similar, as does the tendency to simply leave the scene and avoid contact with it. Other data suggest that people's descriptions of
Maggots and Morals 18 their feelings in physically disgusting experiences are relatively simple (Lee and Ellsworth 2009). Beyond English--Potential of Cross-Linguistic, Cross-Cultural Analysis This chapter provides an indirect, preliminary exploration of features common to physical disgust and fear on the one hand and to moral disgust and anger on the other. These associations have proven to be coherent and replicable in our subsequent research using multiple methods, correlational and experimental, to provide evidence that physically disgusting situations and experiences are distinct from morally disgusting ones and have different psychological consequences (Lee and Ellsworth 2009). For example, analyses of people's self-reported emotional reactions to a variety of situations show that people react with strong fear to the most physically disgusting situations but with strong anger to the most morally disgusting situations. In physically disgusting situations, people who feel more disgusted also feel more fear, even controlling for anger. In morally disgusting situations, people who feel more disgusted are also angrier, even controlling for fear. Altogether these convergent findings deepen our understanding of the two kinds of disgust and their very different appraisals, action tendencies, subjective experiences, and expression regulation. At the same time, it is noteworthy that all of the observed effects are based on a language where the term disgust applies to both physical and moral stimuli. Although the same is true in many languages, we are cautious about hasty generalization across languages. The GRID dataset may provide examples of languages where the term disgust is applicable only at the physical level or only at the moral level (though this seems less likely), or languages that have two or more distinct terms for disgust. Inquiries to GRID investigators reveal that in some languages the vocabulary for disgust is much more finely differentiated than it is in English. In
Maggots and Morals 19 the future we plan to follow up our investigation with a more detailed examination and comparison of the connotations of disgust in languages that have one, two, or several different terms for this cluster of emotional experiences. Acknowledgements This research was supported by an RC Lee Centenary Scholarship to the first author and by a University of Michigan Distinguished University Professorship to the second. We thank Klaus R. Scherer, Johnny R. J. Fontaine, and Cristina Soriano for their support with Data Analysis
and helpful comments on this chapter.
Maggots and Morals 20
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Maggots and Morals 25 Table 1. Empirical and further hypothesized differences between physical disgust and moral disgust in relation to fear and anger.
Aspect Appraisal: agency, value judgment, or morality Appraisal: consequence Action tendency Subjective experience Regulation: exaggerated expression social complexity
Physical Disgust (Resembling Fear)
Usually not involved
Less modifiable Avoidance and dependence (stop current action1, prevent sensory contact2, hide from others3)
Weaker1, more submissive2 Less likely
Moral Disgust (Resembling Anger)
(caused by someone else's behavior1, 1
more violation of social norms2, unjust 2
treatment3, and incongruence with
one's own standards and ideals4)
Approach and punishment
(oppose4, be in command of others5,
destroy6, do damage, hit, say things
Stronger, more powerful, dominant
More complex (multiple perspectives, multiple interpretations, multiple feelings)
Intensity (not direction) of physiological response, subjective experience, action tendency and expression
More intense (because more concrete, experientially direct, sensory and perceptual,; more personally immediate; evolutionarily older)
Less intense (because more abstract, conceptually mediated, ideational and evaluative; less personally immediate; evolutionarily more recent)
Maggots and Morals 26
Note. Within each aspect, each superscript corresponds to an item in the GRID questionnaire. For example, superscript 1 within the Appraisal: agency, value judgment, or morality aspect corresponds to the item `violated laws or socially accepted norms.' Means for this item were in the expected directions but not significantly different from each other.
SWS Lee, PC Ellsworth