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Communicating Moral Motives: The Social Signaling Function of Disgust

Kupfer, Tom R., Giner-Sorolla, Roger (2016) Communicating Moral Motives: The Social Signaling Function of Disgust. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8 (6). pp. 632-640. ISSN 1948-5506. E-ISSN 1948-5514. (doi:10.1177/1948550616679236) (KAR id:59822)


Disgust motivates disease avoidance but it is unclear why it is also reported towards moral violations. Previous explanations have focused on identifying the type of violation specific to disgust. Here, we propose that people will express disgust towards any type of moral violation in order to communicate particular motives. Unlike anger, which can be seen as self-interested, disgust communicates a more disinterested, moral motivation. In two experiments we show that observers infer more moral motivation from an expression of disgust, and more self-interested motivation from anger. Two further experiments testing participants’ own expression decisions demonstrated that disgust is chosen more to show moral concern and anger is chosen to protest harm to one’s self-interest. By shifting focus to the interpersonal effects of emotion expressions, these findings offer a new perspective for understanding the role of disgust in morality.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1948550616679236
Uncontrolled keywords: morality, disgust, anger, communication, self-interest, Social Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Social Psychology
Depositing User: Roger Giner-Sorolla
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2017 17:52 UTC
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 03:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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