Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 31–41 | Cite as

Is Disgust a Homogeneous Emotion?

  • Jane Simpson
  • Sarah Carter
  • Susan H. Anthony
  • Paul G. OvertonEmail author

Many theoretical accounts consider disgust to be a unitary emotion, although others have challenged this notion. We predict that if core disgust and socio-moral disgust are different constructs, then their co-associated elicited emotions are likely to be different, and time as well as gender are likely to differentially affect their intensity (via a greater reliance of socio-moral disgust on cognitive appraisal). To test these predictions, participants were shown photographs of core and socio-moral disgust elicitors and asked to provide a wide ranging rating of their emotional response to each at 3 time points. Each elicitor generated a significantly different emotional response. Furthermore, the disgust response to core elicitors weakened over time whereas socio-moral responses intensified. Males and females showed similar levels of disgust to socio-moral elicitors, but females showed higher levels to core elicitors. Overall, the results suggest that a different emotional construct was activated by each type of elicitor.


Core disgust socio-moral disgust emotional context temporal changes gender 


  1. Alvarado, N. (1998). A reconsideration of the structure of the emotion lexicon. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 329–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angyal, A. (1941). Disgust and related aversions. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 36, 393–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Basinger, K. S., Gibbs, J. C., & Fuller, D. (1995). Context and the measurement of moral judgement. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 18, 537–556.Google Scholar
  4. Christie, I. C., & Friedman, B. H. (2004). Autonomic specificity of discrete emotion and dimensions of affective space: A multivariate approach. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 51, 143–153.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clore, G. L. (1994). Why emotions vary in intensity. In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.), The nature of emotions: Fundamental questions (pp. 386–393). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Clore, G. L., & Centerbar, D. B. (2004). Analyzing anger: How to make people mad. Emotion, 4, 139–144.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Druschel, B. A., & Scherman, M. F. (1999). Disgust sensitivity as a function of the Big Five and gender. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 739–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Haidt, J., McCauley, C., & Rozin, P. (1994). Individual differences in sensitivity to disgust: A scale sampling seven domains of disgust elicitors. Journal of Personal and Individual Differences, 16, 701–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 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
  10. Izard, C. (1977). Human emotions. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  11. Lang, P. J., Greenwald, M. K., Bradley, M. M., & Hamm, A. O. (1993). Looking at pictures—Affective, facial, visceral, and behavioral reactions. Psychophysiology, 30, 261–273.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Marzillier, S. L., & Davey, G. C. L. (2004). The emotional profiling of disgust-eliciting stimuli: Evidence for primary and complex disgusts. Cognition and Emotion, 18, 313–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Miller, W. I. (1997). The anatomy of disgust. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Nabi, R. L. (2002). The theoretical versus lay meaning of disgust: Implications for emotion research. Cognition and Emotion, 16, 695–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Oatley, K., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1987). Towards a cognitive theory of emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 1, 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Olatunji, B. O., Tolin, D. F., Huppert, J. D., & Lohr, J. M. (2005). The relation between fearfulness, disgust sensitivity and religious obsessions in a non clinical sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 891–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Power, M., & Dalgleish, T. (1997). Cognition and emotion: From order to disorder. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  18. 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, 29–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (1993). Disgust. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 575–594). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  20. Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (1999). Disgust: The body and the soul emotion. In T. Dalgleish & M. Power (Eds.), Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 429–445). London: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rozin, P., Lowery, L., & Ebert, R. (1994). Varieties of disgust faces and the structure of disgust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 870–881.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rozin, P., Millman, L., & Nemeroff, C. (1986). Operation of the laws of sympathetic magic in disgust and other domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 703–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Simpson, J., Anthony, S. H., Schmeer, S., & Overton, P. G. (in press). Food-related contextual factors substantially modify the disgust response. Food Quality and Preference.Google Scholar
  24. Tomkins, S. (1963). Affect, imagery, consciousness: Vol 2. The negative affects. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Simpson
    • 1
  • Sarah Carter
    • 2
  • Susan H. Anthony
    • 2
  • Paul G. Overton
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PsychologyUniversity of LancasterLancasterUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations