Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 100–108 | Cite as

“You make me sick”: Moral dyspepsia as a reaction to third-party sibling incest

  • Edward B. RoyzmanEmail author
  • Robert F. Leeman
  • John Sabini
Original Paper


A pilot study and two main studies lent support to the hypothesis that appraisals of consensual sibling incest as immoral may directly engender the phenomenological state of oral inhibition (OI), comprised of nausea, gagging, and diminished appetite. More specifically, the findings indicate that (a) OI is a central component of a third-party reaction to sibling incest (significantly more so than anger or fear), (b) that it is produced specifically by the morally proscribed aspect of the incestuous relationship (sex between two individuals with common ancestry), and that (c) it is produced so directly rather than as a by-product of a more immediate emotional response (say, intense anger or fear). Furthermore, Study 2 found equal levels of OI for individuals with and without opposite-sex siblings, indicating that third-party aversion to consensual incest is, most likely, a function of the culturally transmitted information regarding the inherent wrongness of such acts.


Disgust Nausea Morality Incest Phenomenology 


  1. Angyal, A. (1941). Disgust and related aversions. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 36, 393–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, D. E. (1991). Human universals. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Darwin C. R. (1965). The expression of emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Original work published in 1872).Google Scholar
  5. Ehrlich, E., Flexner, S. B., Carruth, G., & Hawkins, J. M. (1980). Oxford American dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Eisenberger, N. I., & Lieberman, M. D. (2004). Why rejection hurts: A common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. Trend in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 294–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ekman, P. (2003). Emotions revealed: Recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  8. Fessler, D. M. T., & Navarrete, C. D. (2004). Third-party attitudes toward sibling incest: Evidence for Westermarck’s hypotheses. Evolution & Human Behavior, 25, 277–294.Google Scholar
  9. Gould, S. J. (1991). Exaptation: A crucial tool for an evolutionary psychology. Journal of Social Issues, 47, 43–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gould, S. J., & Vrba, E. S. (1982). Exaptation—a missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology, 8, 4–15.Google Scholar
  11. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814–834.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Haidt, J., Rozin, P., McCauley, C. R., & Imada, S. (1997). Body, psyche and culture: The relationship between disgust and morality. Psychology and Developing Societies, 9, 107–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Izard, C. E. (1977). Human emotions. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  14. Levi-Strauss, C. (1969). The Elementary structures of Kinship. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  15. Lieberman, D., Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2003). Does morality have a biological basis? An empirical test of the factors governing moral sentiments relating to incest. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 270, 819–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacDonald, G., & Leary, M. R. (2005). Why does social exclusion hurt? The relationship between social and physical pain. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 202–223.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller, W. I. (1997). The anatomy of disgust. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Muth, E. R., Stern, R. M., & Koch, K. L. (1998). A psychophysiological paradigm for the study of nausea. Journal of Psychophysiology, 12, 56–63.Google Scholar
  19. Muth, E. R., Stern, R. M., Thayer, J. F., & Koch, K. L. (1996). Assessment of the multiple dimensions of nausea: The Nausea Profile (NP). Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 40, 511–520.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nabi, R. (2002). The theoretical versus the lay meaning of disgust: Implications for emotion research. Cognition and Emotion, 16, 695–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Royzman, E. B., & Sabini, J. (2001). Something it takes to be an emotion: The interesting case of disgust. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 31, 29–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rozin, P., & Fallon, A. E. (1987). A perspective on disgust. Psychological Review, 94, 23–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rozin, P., Lowery, L., Imada, S., & Haidt, J. (1999). The CAD triad hypothesis: A mapping between three moral emotions (contempt, anger, disgust) and three moral codes (community, autonomy, divinity). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 574–586.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Russell, J. A., & Fehr, B. (1994). Fuzzy concepts in a fuzzy hierarchy: Varieties of anger. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 186–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shand, A. F. (1920). The foundations of character (2nd ed.). London: McMillan.Google Scholar
  26. Shepher, J. (1983). Incest, a biosocial view. New York: Academic Press. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Simpson, J., Carter, S., Anthony, S. H., & Overton, P.G. (2006). Is disgust a homogenous emotion? Motivation and Emotion, 30, 31–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vrana, S. R. (1993). The psychophysiology of disgust: Differentiating negative emotional contexts with facial EMG. Psychophysiology, 30, 279–286.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Westermarck, E. (1921). The history of human marriage (5th ed.). London: McMillan.Google Scholar
  30. Wolf, A. P. (1995). Sexual attraction and childhood association: A Chinese brief for Edward Westermarck. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward B. Royzman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert F. Leeman
    • 2
  • John Sabini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations