Disgust as an essentialist emotion that signals nonviolent outgrouping with potentially low social costs

Maayan Katzir, Matan Hoffmann, Nira Liberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

When a person states that s/he is disgusted by an outgroup, what can we conclude about his/her attitudes, beliefs, and character? Based on an analysis of physical disgust, we predicted that expressing disgust toward a social group would convey a belief that this group possesses a negative essence; namely, that it has a biological basis, and clear boundaries, and that its members share immutable, inherent characteristics. Because being disgusting violates the moral foundation of purity, we also predicted that expressing disgust toward a social group would convey moral condemnation of that group. In three studies, we found that an expression of disgust (vs. anger, hate) toward homosexuals (Studies 1 and 3) and Arabs (Study 2) was perceived as conveying a negative and essentializing attitude toward that group and a perception of this group as impure and immoral. Expressions of disgust conveyed a more avoidant yet less violent and a less prejudiced (and therefore more legitimate) attitude than expressions of hate. Similar results were obtained in Study 4, in which beliefs were expressed toward unidentified social groups and participants had to indicate which emotions accompany that belief.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-862
Number of pages22
JournalEmotion
Volume19
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.

Keywords

  • Behavioral immune system
  • Disgust
  • Essentialism
  • Intergroup emotions
  • Morality

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