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Title: A reputation management and signalling account of moral disgust and moral contagion
Author: Kupfer, Tom R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 273X
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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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.
Supervisor: Giner-Sorolla, Roger Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available