Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This
submit to reddit

The Emotion And Disgust As A Moral Emotion Psychology Essay

We do our decisions either rational or emotional. Now think about the scene that you are in a store and standing in front of shelves, and you fetch the fair trade labeled product. After coming home, you realize that you bought so many fair trade labeled products. Normally, you do not buy these kinds of products, but today was different. Does fair trade labeled product make you feel better? Do you think that you are more ethical now? There might be a significant correlation between your instant emotional state, moral judgments and your decisions. Previous studies demonstrated that decision process is related with emotions. In this paper, we want to study the impact of emotions on decision making process. In this research paper, we want to focus on disgust as emotion and its possible association with moral judgments and influence on decision making process. We especially want to focus on economic decisions, because we want to see if it is possible to implement marketing campaigns of fair trade product based on moral judgments related issues.

Emotion and Disgust as a Moral Emotion

Emotions are crucial both in shaping moral judgment and behavior and as reactions to morally-relevant behavior. For this reason, there are so many studies addressing emotions (e.g., fear, anger, disgust, etc.). According to the social intuitionist model of moral reasoning (Haidt, 2001), emotions are the primary driver for shaping moral judgments. This perception is closely in same line with other study, it emphasizes on quick and automatic valuations, in other word intuitive-emotional processes, are critical in the judgment process (Greene & Haidt, 2002). People use their affective feelings as a source of information and interpret their conditions in the environment. According to the state of their feeling (e.g., positive or negative), people’s interpretations show differences when making evaluative judgments. In other words, people usually like when they feel positive and dislike when they feel negative about the situation (Schnall, Benton, & Harvey 2008). This concept is similarly stated in the affect-as-information framework; there is a relationship between emotion and cognition (Schwarz & Clore, 1983, 1988, as cited in Schall et al, 2008). According to Niedenthal et al. (2005), “social information processing involves embodiment, where embodiment refers both to actual bodily states and to simulations of experience in the brain’s modality-specific systems for perception, action, and introspection” (p.184). Processes of embodied cognition is both online and offline. While online embodiment uses physical objects, offline embodiment has to do with abstract objects in the surroundings. In order to make a meaningful interpretation of symbols, individuals have a count on the relevant, first online embodiment (Niedenthal et al., 2005).

Herein, we want to stress on disgust more specifically because it is more related with the focus of our research subject. We often use disgust in a food related concept, but it is also proper for socially immoral people, situations, and behaviors. For instance, a violation of a moral issue regarding to purity has been shown to stimulate disgust feelings (Rozin, Lowery, Imada, & Haidt, 1999). Especially, its evolutionary position as a protective emotion, disgust seemed to be a particularly significant emotion concerning moral judgment (Pizarro, Inbar, & Helion, 2011). There is also other research addressing the same mechanism of disgust with another remark. According to Rozin, Haidt, and McCauley (2000), the mechanism of disgust has been changed from being a protection of body from harm to being a shield for the soul in case of harm. At this level, disgust becomes moral sense and powerful form of negative socialization. Several studies underlined that pure disgust and moral disgust not only create a similar impact in body, i.e., face expression and physiological activation (Rozin, Lowery, & Ebert, 1994 as cited in Zhong& Liljenquist, 2006) but also have a place in particularly same brain areas, essentially in the frontal and temporal lobes (Moll et al., 2005, as cited in Zhong& Liljenquist, 2006).

In order to understand the moral judgment mechanism, we should look at a bit closer the social intuitionist model. According to this model, people usually make their moral judgments according to their feelings (Haidt, 2001). For instance, previous studies showed that moral disgust has immediate impact on judgments and make moral judgments more severe (Schnall et al., 2008; Wheatley & Haidt, 2005). Social intuitionist model proposes that moral judgments are shaped by various factors including intuition and instinct, and hardly because of a cognitive process. In other words, intuitions and emotions do not require effort, and they are instant; and that we are not aware of the process consciously. Intuition with reasoning is purposeful, conscious, and to have need for several steps. Moreover, emotional state may play a role, but they do not affect the moral judgment in a straight line. The roles of moral reasoning might be looking for a reason to defend own instant instinctive responses, using logic to share judgments with others and influence them to agree, and counting on reasoning in case of no initial intuition or conflict situation in intuitions(Haidt, 2001).

In their study, Schall et al., (2008) stated that disgust feelings can be conveyed to objects for which they are not related. This shows that judgments are under the effect of disgust emotions even it is not interrelated with the situation or object. For instance, Lerner, Small, and Loewenstein (2004) investigated the relationship between emotions and their impacts on endowment effect. They showed that induced disgust emotion by former, unrelated situation had carry-over-effect to normatively independent financial decisions. As a result of inducing disgust when it compared with being in a neutral mood reduced the capital amount that participants were willing to pay for certain objects and endowment. Additionally, the research results of Schall and colleagues (2008) point out a causative relationship between physical disgust feelings and moral criticism. In their experiment, participants made their moral decisions while going through extraneous feelings of disgust. Manipulation of disgust performed by a bad smell, working in a disgusting room, recalling disgusting experience, and watching a disgusting video clip. In common, the results indicated that disgust causes to moral judgments more severe when it compared to the control condition. More specifically, the participants who were exposed to the unpleasant smell had more severe in their judgments. Additionally, people who showed a high level of body consciousness were more severe in their moral judgments.

Cleanliness and Moral Judgments

The consideration of cleanliness helps to form a key moral judgment that developed from the need to protection from possibly hazardous materials (Haidt & Joseph, 2008, as cited in Schnall et al., 2008). Investigation of the relationship between physical cleansing and moral judgments by (Schall et al., 2008) helped out to understand the importance of cleanliness over moral judgments. They observed that, after washing their hands with cleanser and water participants can reduce their moral judgment severity of video clip including disgust issues. Based on this finding, they assumed that physical cleansing can reduce feelings of disgust and the severity of the moral judgments.

With similar viewpoint Zhong and Liljenquist (2006) conducted a study in order to investigate an interchangeability relationship between physical and moral purity, to put it in a different way, physical cleansing acts as a substitute for moral purification. They asked participants to recall a moral or immoral action from their past, as a result of an immoral action came up with more words with cleaning related than those who remembered a moral act. Afterwards, they examined whether a hidden treat to moral cleanliness creates a psychological desire for cleaning; they observed that copying the immoral story amplified the interest of cleansing products. In their next experiment, the possibility of taking an antiseptic cleansing wipe after remembering a moral or immoral act. Not surprisingly, most of the participants who recalled an immoral act took the disinfectant wipes as a gift. In the last experiment, participants described an immoral act from their past. After that, they either cleansed their hands with an antiseptic wipe or not. They finished a survey regarding with their current emotional state before asking to participants if they would be eager to help for a different research study without pay. Participants, who had preferred to clean their hands, were less willing to be a volunteer to help. The possibility of expressing feeling of guilt, regret, shame or discomfort was eliminated with cleaning. According to the findings; we can conclude that physical cleansing repairs moral self-image. The desire for cleaning is a human coping mechanism, which has changed to reduce feelings of guilt when we act unethically.

In a different paradigm, to figure out the importance of sense on behaviors Holland, Hendriks, and Aarts (2005) conducted a study. The result of the research demonstrated that scent can have non-conscious influence on both thought and behavior and makes participants more sensitive to moral-related words. In addition, pleasing fragrances activate and expose positive memories, information and moods, which leads to increased ease of access of information, and information processing depth. On the other hand, their study did not clearly address the role of odor in moral judgments and moral cleansing. The research study by Liljenquist, Zhong, and Galinsky (2010) also demonstrated that clean smell both motivates clean behavior and increases moral behaviors such as mutual trust as well as proposing help for charity.

Moral Licensing and Moral Cleaning

Researchers Khan and Dhar (2006) describe the phenomena of moral licensing as an unconscious effect that provides a moral enhancement in oneself self-image. They point out the significance importance of prior choices in activating and improving oneself self-image. It helps us to understand the preference mechanism of human among the set of alternatives. In addition, results of the research demonstrate that a primary altruistic intent enhancing the relevant self-concept can free a person to pick a more indulgent possibility. It is an valuable outcome for understanding the influence of priming on a self-concept for the next choices. According to this research results (Merritt et al., 2010) moral licensing is not only decrease prosocial enthusiasm, but also less inhibit ethically doubtful behavior. The study conducted by Sachdeva, Iliev, and Medin (2009) also demonstrated compensatory and regulatory behavior of people. It suggests that with high moral self-worth people can behave immorally. Also, people can show opposite behavior in other area of their life because their ample self-image in some way forces them to balance out all that goodness. In other words, we adjust our sense of self-worth by doing moral self-regulation continuously. For example, when we think that we’re too moral, we feel that we have the right to be immoral for a moment. On the other hand, if we think that we act immoral, we feel necessity for doing something moral to feel better again about ourselves. This type of reactions can be thought of as moral licensing. Principally, thinking of positive behaviors increases one’s self-worth while negative behaviors decrease it. In the experiment, conducted by Sachdeva et al. (2009), participants thought that they took part in a handwriting test. All experimentations involved positive traits and negative traits behaviors condition. By asking participants to think of both positive and negative behaviors connected with them, they manipulated participants’ degree of self-worth, and they also were asked if they have a desire for contributing for a charity with money on hand. Participants who had higher self-worth donated low amount of money to charities than participants with lower positive self-image. They observed that priming people with positive and negative deeds strongly affected ethical behavior. Participants, who wrote about their moral behavior, donated the lowest amount, while participants who wrote about immoral behavior donated highest amount. Dissimilarity, participants, who were in the negative condition and wrote about their immoral story, gave more than those who wrote a unethical story about others. Participants showed a need for the moral-cleansing or moral-licensing only when they wrote about themselves. To put it in a different way, changes in self-concept would take place when participants think about themselves, rather than thinking about another person. In short, talking about themselves activated the occurrence of the moral-cleansing and moral-licensing effects on people. Merritt et al. (2010) claim that “when individuals have had a chance to establish their kindness, generosity, or compassion, they should worry less about engaging in behaviors that might appear to violate prosocial norms” (p.346) and “behaviors that establish one’s morality can disinhibit people to act in morally dubious ways” (p.354). Sachdeva et al. (2009) said “If people feel ‘‘too moral’’ they might not have sufficient incentive to engage in moral action because prosocial behavior is inherently costly to the individual” (p.524).

The other research study (Jordan, Mullen, and Murnighan, 2009, as cited in Merritt et al., 2010) found similar outcomes using prosocial intentions as a dependent measure. After asking participants to describe their past activity in terms of their ethical, unethical and neutral themes, they indicated the probability of their engagement in each of numerous prosocial activities (i.e., money donations, giving blood, and volunteering). Participants who remembered their ethical act stated less prosocial intentions than the control group, representative of moral licensing while prosocial intentions of participants, who recalled a their unethical act, were higher than the control group. This performance referred as a moral cleansing. In the second experiment, they asked participants if they would cheat on a math exam. Participants, who recalled a past good action, were most probable to cheat than people who recalled a past immoral action.

According to Horberg et al. (2009), disgust can polarize moral judgments. People can judge other people and their behaviors more severe if people or their behaviors are objectively negative. Disgust can also polarize judgments on the other way around and make them more positive if the behaviors or people are objectively positive. Shortly, disgust makes judgments more severe or total opposite.

Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This

Share This Essay

To share this essay on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ just click on the buttons below:

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Request the removal of this essay.


More from UK Essays

Doing your resits? We can help!