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Week 01 Questions:

Moral Psychology

Thank you.
Take a look at these.
Helpful for me ... I was thinking about cutting Haidt this year but since at least two people mention his work, I am struck that we should consider it.
Put your questions here ...

Nikki (Q3)

How do we define disgust?

The dictionary defines it as "a strong feeling of disapproval and dislike at a situation/ person's behaviour". However, won't some of the "non-disgusting" vignettes pass as a "disgusting" by the dictionary's definition?

‘... feelings of disgust; we are concerned with whether [people] use such feelings to guide their judgments(Schnall et al., 2008, p. 1096).

The feeling is supposed to be a basis for the judgement, not to contain it.

Affect Heuristic:

‘if thinking about an act […] makes you feel bad […], then judge that it is morally wrong’ (Sinnott-Armstrong et al., 2010).

‘Disgust is thought to have originated in distaste, a food-rejection impulse or motivation triggered by the ingestion of unpleasant-tasting substances, prototypically those that are bitter

[...] Distaste appears to have very ancient origins: Even sea anemones, which first evolved some 500 million years ago, will expel bitter foods from their gastric cavity’ (Chapman & Anderson, 2013, p. 300).

‘the primitive motivational system of disgust’(Chapman et al., 2009, p. 1222)

motivational states

primary motivational states

unchanging, not modifiable by learning

  • hunger
  • thirst
  • satiety
  • disgust
  • ...


changing, influenced by learning (and fashion, ...)

  • chocolate over rhubarb
  • lime over lemon
  • red over blue
  • ...


Samuel J

Should we approach/read psychological papers differently to how we approach philosophy papers?

Nikki (Q2)

Just wondering if the sadness had a statistically significant effect in making people less harsh in making moral judgements?

I don’t think they do a planned comparison so we cannot draw any firm conclusions from this research.

[RESULTS] In the high-PBC group, ‘the means for the sadness condition were lower than the means for the neutral condition’ (Schnall et al., 2008, p. 1105)

[DISCUSSION] ‘sadness showed a trend in the opposite direction of influence on moral judgment’

(Schnall et al., 2008, p. 1105)

i.e. not significant

Nikki (Q1)

Can you explain a bit more about Private Body Consciousness please, or maybe more specifically how the level of Private Body Consciousness is tested?

‘participants completed the Body Consciousness Questionnaire (Miller et al., 1981), which includes five items that comprise the PBC subscale, rated on a scale from 1 (disagree strongly) to 6 (agree strongly). The items used were: “I am sensitive to internal bodily tensions”; “I know immediately when my mouth or throat gets dry”; “I can often feel my heart beating”; “I am quick to sense the hunger contractions of my stomach”; and “I am very aware of changes in my body temperature.”’ (Schnall et al., 2008, p. 1101)

Rated on a scale from 1 (disagree strongly) to 6 (agree strongly):

  1. “I am sensitive to internal bodily tensions”
  2. “I know immediately when my mouth or throat gets dry”
  3. “I can often feel my heart beating”
  4. “I am quick to sense the hunger contractions of my stomach”; and
  5. “I am very aware of changes in my body temperature.”

(Schnall et al., 2008, p. 1101)

To follow-up, see Miller, Murphy, & Buss (1981) and works citing their paper.

more questions?