"Maggots and Morals: Physical Disgust is to Fear as Moral Disgust is to Anger"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
Components of Emotional Meaning: A Sourcebook
Publication Type
Book Chapter

We argue from an appraisal theory point of view that physical and moral disgust involve different appraisals and thus different experiences, physiologies, action tendencies, and motivations to regulate expression. We hypothesized that physical disgust shares attributes with fear, and moral disgust with anger. Using the GRID data, we found that moral disgust and anger are characterized by a constellation of features—most notably the attribution of agency to another person, the violation of social norms, the presence of value-laden judgments, and the urge to approach and punish. Physical disgust and fear involve no value-laden judgment, but a sense of weakness/submissiveness and an urge to avoid and comply. These findings raise new questions about the role of agency, emotional complexity, and cultural-linguistic variations in the two kinds of disgust

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