Disgust Discussed: Introduction to the Special Section

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Abstract

The author introduces a special section of Psychological Bulletin devoted to the study of disgust. After discussing conflicts between its supposed role as a basic emotion and its more recently understood involvement in responding to moral transgressions, the author summarizes 3 articles contained in the special section. Widen and Russell (2013) present a developmental account of disgust highlighting the ages at which children experience, express, understand, verbalize, and recognize disgust. The article shows that disgust is present early but that recognition of disgust in others is considerably delayed. Chapman and Anderson (2013) review evidence pertaining to the question of whether genuine disgust is elicited by moral transgressions. Their review covers data from self-report, brain imaging, facial behavior, and implicit measures gathered from both experimental and correlational studies. They conclude that moral transgressions elicit genuine disgust. Russell and Giner-Sorolla (2013) ask what types of moral transgressions are most likely to elicit pure disgust. They find that moral transgressions involving body violations are more likely than others to elicit such disgust. Moreover, they suggest that disgust elicited by body violations is likely to be more resistant to modification by context, situation, and efforts at rationalization. Taken together, the reviews support the view that rudiments of disgust to physical objects are present early in life but later become adapted to social influence and new moral purposes. Social implications are discussed.

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