Disgust, anger, and aggression: Further tests of the equivalence of moral emotions

J.M. Tybur*, Catherine Molho, Begum Cakmak, T.D. Das Dores Cruz, Guarav Deep Singh, Maria Zwicker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

People often report disgust toward moral violations. Some perspectives posit that this disgust is indistinct from anger. Here, we replicate and extend recent work suggesting that disgust and anger toward moral violations are in fact distinct in terms of the situations in which they are activated and their correspondence with aggressive sentiments. We tested three hypotheses concerning emotional responses to moral violations: (1) disgust is associated with lower-cost, indirectly aggressive motives (e.g., gossip and social exclusion), whereas anger is associated with higher-cost, directly aggressive motives (e.g., physical violence); (2) disgust is higher toward violations affecting others than it is toward violations affecting the self, and anger is higher toward violations affecting the self than it is toward violations affecting others; and (3) abilities to inflict costs on or withhold benefits from others (measured via physical strength and physical attractiveness, respectively) relate to anger, but not to disgust. These hypotheses were tested in a within-subjects study in which 233 participants came to the lab twice and reported their emotional responses and aggressive sentiments toward self-targeting and other-targeting moral violations. Participants’ upper body strength and physical attractiveness were also measured with a dynamometer and photograph ratings, respectively. The first two hypotheses were supported – disgust (but not anger) was related to indirect aggression whereas anger (but not disgust) was related to direct aggression, and disgust was higher toward other-targeting violations whereas anger was higher toward self-targeting violations. However, physical strength and physical attractiveness were unrelated to anger or disgust or to endorsements of direct or indirect aggression.
Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2020

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