The Human Brain

The Human Brain

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More Evidence for the Role of Moral Emotions in the Formation of Moral Judgments


I recently posted some of the findings from my thesis, which suggests that moral emotions are more predictive of moral judgments than moral reasoning. Specifically, people who are high in disgust sensitivity and high in moral development are just as prejudice toward homosexuals as those who are low in moral reasoning, which indicates that disgust can overwhelm our ability to reason.

In the second study of my thesis, I found that inducing disgust can make certain individuals more prejudice toward homosexuals while making other individuals report less prejudice.

Participants in this study were asked to read one of two scenarios and write a brief paragraph describing their physical and emotional reactions. Half of the participants imagined what it would be like to consume a bowl of maggots and the other half described what it would be like to eat a bowl of lettuce.

Following the experimental manipulation, the participants completed measures of prejudice toward homosexuals, disgust sensitivity, and authoritarianism. Authoritarianism was measured using the right-wing authoritarianism scale, which assess conventionalism, authoritarian submission, and aggression toward out-groups. Traditionally, individuals who score high on the right-wing authoritarianism scale are more likely to be prejudice toward homosexuals, minorities, and more likely to be politically conservative.

Disgust induction for individuals who scored high on the authoritarianism scale resulted in an increase in prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals as compared to those in the control group. In addition, disgust induction for those who scored low on the authoritarianism scale led to a decrease in prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals as compared to those in the control group.

These results demonstrate that conservatives and liberals are differentially affected by the moral emotion of disgust.

2 comments:

Dave said...

Hi there, great piece. I'm a bit confused, though. Why would inducing disgust have an opposite affect on those that rank low on the authoritarian scale?

Dr. Yeti said...

What's the standard deviation look like?