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Description: OK, quick! Think of an example of something that is disgusting. That did not take long, did it? Theorize for a minute about what \makes something disgusting. Add to your theory a component having to do with possible values of disgust, that is, about what possibly positive roles it might play in our lives and in our social interaction. Got your theory sketched out? I can guarantee you that, as good as it is, it is very likely much narrower than the theories that have arisen from research and reflection for psychologists and others. To see what is missing from your account have a read through the article linked below or listen to a reading of the article. After you are done go and do something distracting to get thoughts of disgusting stuff out of your head!

Source: How Disgust Explains Everything, Molly Young, The New York Times.

Date: December 27, 2021

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/27/magazine/disgust-science.html

So, no surprise that disgust is linked to food and eating. Your theory had that bit in it already, didn’t it? What about the idea that disgust is an emotion… a rather basic emotion that has been harnessed to initiate and drive all manner of social and moral guidelines and restrictions, from eating with your hands to having sex with relatives. Jonathon Haidt’s work on the drawing out of moral codes or factors into, among other things, political speeches show how deep and broad the use of disgust and other core feelings can be seen to be. It is about social discipline but also about how constituencies can vary in terms of the moral palate that they hold dear and to which they respond either when raising concerns about their political opponents or about any “other or others”. Think of how individuals and media outlets associated with the far right in the United States talk about “the Dems” and vice versa.  It all cuts deep … just as the feeling associated with things like disgust can cut deep and shape behavior. Those analysis can help to account for how deeply held some political/social beliefs are held and how resistant they are to discussion or adjustment.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some basic or prototypical examples of things that are generally viewed as disgusting?
  2. If disgust is not simply the result of a classically conditioned generalization from a bad eating experience what else in involved?
  3. What role or roles does disgust play in social regulation and in social conflict? What can/should we do about it (if anything)?

References (Read Further):

Rozin, P., & Fallon, A. E. (1987). A perspective on disgust. Psychological review, 94(1), 23. Link

Chapman, H. A., & Anderson, A. K. (2012). Understanding disgust. Link

Oaten, M., Stevenson, R. J., & Case, T. I. (2009). Disgust as a disease-avoidance mechanism. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 303. Link

Haidt, J., McCauley, C., & Rozin, P. (1994). Individual differences in sensitivity to disgust: A scale sampling seven domains of disgust elicitors. Personality and Individual differences, 16(5), 701-713. Link

Schnall, S., Haidt, J., Clore, G. L., & Jordan, A. H. (2008). Disgust as embodied moral judgment. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 34(8), 1096-1109. Link

Haidt, J., Rozin, P., McCauley, C., & Imada, S. (1997). Body, psyche, and culture: The relationship between disgust and morality. Psychology and Developing Societies, 9(1), 107-131. Link

Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(5), 1029. Link

Inbar, Y., Pizarro, D., Iyer, R., & Haidt, J. (2012). Disgust sensitivity, political conservatism, and voting. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(5), 537-544. Link

Iyer, R., Koleva, S., Graham, J., Ditto, P., & Haidt, J. (2012). Understanding libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians. Link