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A reputation management and signalling account of moral disgust and moral contagion

Kupfer, Tom.R (2018) A reputation management and signalling account of moral disgust and moral contagion. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (KAR id:66727)


Moral disgust is thought to be an emotion arising from perceptions of immorality as physically contaminating, in part based on experiments showing that participants are unwilling to contact immoral objects like a Nazi's armband. Here it is proposed that apparent contagiousness of immorality is driven by desire to avoid reputation harm by visibly associating with immorality. Hypothetical (Study 1) and behavioural (Study 2) evidence supported this account. Participants preferred to wear a Nazi armband under rather than over their clothing, even though this meant direct skin contact. The "under" preference was stronger with an audience. Participant reports revealed little contamination concern but strong reputation concern. Changing perspective, targets who touched but concealed the armband were not seen as contaminated or immoral (Study 3). If disgust reported towards immorality is not contaminating, it may not reflect activation of the full emotion of disgust. Instead, people may express disgust to communicate particular motives. Unlike anger, which can be seen as self-interested, disgust communicates a more principled, moral motivation. Studies 4 and 5 used scenarios to show that observers infer more moral motivation from an expression of disgust and more self-interested motivation from anger. Studies 6, 7 and 8 demonstrated that participants are more likely to choose to express disgust to show moral concern and anger to protest harm to one's self-interest. These findings offer a new perspective for understanding the role of disgust in morality: disgust is not expressed because people feel an internal state of disgust but because disgust effectively communicates morally motivated condemnation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Giner-Sorolla, Roger
Uncontrolled keywords: moral disgust, reputation, self-presentation, signalling, moral contagion, contamination, moral psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2018 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 20:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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