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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Harm Mediates the Disgust-Immorality Link

Chelsea Schein, Ryan Ritter, & Kurt Gray
Emotion, in press


Many acts are disgusting, but only some of these acts are immoral. Dyadic morality predicts that
disgusting acts should be judged as immoral to the extent that they seem harmful. Consistent
with this prediction, three studies reveal that perceived harm mediates the link between feelings
of disgust and moral condemnation—even for ostensibly harmless “purity” violations. In many
cases, accounting for perceived harm completely eliminates the link between disgust and moral
condemnation. Analyses also reveal the predictive power of anger and typicality/weirdness in
moral judgments of disgusting acts. The mediation of disgust by harm holds across diverse acts
including gay marriage, sex acts, and religious blasphemy. Revealing the endogenous presence
and moral relevance of harm within disgusting-but-ostensibly-harmless acts argues against
modular accounts of moral cognition such as moral foundations theory. Instead, these data
support pluralistic conceptions of harm and constructionist accounts of morality and emotion.
Implications for moral cognition and the concept of “purity” are discussed.

The article is here.