Disgust is an intriguing emotion. Psychologists have long been puzzled by its nature: how it develops in an individual and how it affects the society. According to Rozin et al (Rozin, Haidt, McCauley, 2000), there are nine domains of disgust elicitors in North Americans, namely: food, animals, body products, sexual behaviors, violations of the dermal layer, poor hygiene, physical contact with dead or corpses, interpersonal contamination and certain moral offenses. These elicitors are the key to the development as well as maintenance of disgust in humans.
Food is considered the most fundamental factor in the development of such emotion. Disgust serves as a mechanism that helps protect the body from ingesting harmful objects or poisonous foods. It is a response towards bad tastes which are acquired through the mouth. As an emotion, disgust is manifested through behavioral, physiological, expressive, and qualia components. Thus, it can be analyzed by examining these components. Understanding how disgust affects moral judgment, conflict and ethno-political violence lies in these categories.
The purpose of this paper is to explain what disgust is, identify the different factors associated with its development, understand how it is expressed by an individual, and finally, explain how it affects the society. Expression of Disgust: How Disgust is expressed Personally and Culturally and the Role of Sympathetic Magic Disgust is a basic emotion that is listed in almost all lists of emotions with at least four types in it. It satisfies any criterion in characterizing emotions, may it be facial, semantic, or eclectic (Rozin et al, 2000).
Expression of disgust in individuals as well as cultural entities is subdivided into four components: behavioral, physiological, expressive, and qualia (Rozin et al, 2000). Laws of sympathetic magic also affect the display of disgust in an individual and how disgust is expressed in every cultural entity. Individual Expression Manifestation of disgust as an emotion in humans is subdivided into four components: behavioral, physiological, expressive, and qualia (Rozin et al, 2000). In behavioral component, disgust is being expressed as keeping away from objects, events, or situations which are also characteristics of rejection.
In the physiological component, disgust is manifested by two types of physiological changes: one is nausea and the other is salivation. Nausea is correlated with disgust, though it is not a requirement for someone to experience it. Salivation was introduced by Angyal as being correlated with the expression of disgust. It is also associated with nausea, though it can occur without resulting to or beginning from nausea. In the expressive component, disgust is manifested through facial expressions (Rozin, Lowery, & Ebert, 1994).
A “disgust face” is an expression which is analogous to every human being. Such facial expressions include raised cheeks, narrowed eyebrows, curled upper lips, protruded tongue and wrinkled nose. Motions of the heads, such as jerking backwards and shaking from side-to-side, are also correlated with disgust. Sometimes, the person may utter sounds like “ach” or “ugh”. These expressions depend upon the nature of elicitors which are commonly used to discourage entry of something, most probably food, or as a response to something that causes the disgust, such as rotten flesh.
The qualia component of disgust is the mental or feeling component which is considered to be the most difficult to study. As compared with other emotions, disgust is usually experienced in shorter time durations and some disgust-eliciting situations might invoke humor. Laws of Sympathetic Magic Two laws of sympathetic magic, contagion and similarity, which were vital in the formation of belief systems of ancient and traditional cultures, were found to have had great application in the study of various human behaviors (Rozin, Millman, & Nemeroff, 1986).
Rozin et al (1986) were able to establish direct link between these laws and disgust. Contagion. The first law of sympathetic magic states that “once in contact, always in contact”. Contagion, as it is more popularly known, invokes varied response from people. One of which is disgust. As its definition suggests, contagion is the transfer of properties through physical contact of one object into another. Rozin et al (1986) studied how drinks became undesirable after a sterilized, dead cockroach was dipped into it.
Cockroaches are usually associated with dirt and diseases and any contact with it invokes disgust. The role of contagion is to transfer these properties into other objects, in this case, the drinks. As a result, a person who sees the cockroach in the drink will experience revulsion of it. Similarities. The second law, commonly called similarities, states that “the image equals the object” (Rozin et al, 1986). Under this law, objects, especially food, represent other undesirable objects.
An acceptable food, for example, fudge shaped into dog feces, might invoke revulsion from people because of its looks or what it represents. The role of the second law of sympathetic magic in the acquisition of disgust in an individual is the representation of disgust elicitors by acceptable objects, such as food. Development and Maintenance of Disgust Disgust is often viewed as a food-related emotion. Most studies in the evolution of disgust pointed it as a response of distaste. Bad tastes elicit disgust in varying degrees or relevance.
For example, bitter foods are less accepted by people’s mouth, whereas poisonous foods are totally avoided. Disgust serves as a protective mechanism of people against any harm, especially ingestion of foods. However, disgust can also be elicited by other factors. According to Rozin et al (2000), there are nine elicitors of disgust in the Americans, namely: food, animals, body products, sexual behaviors, violations of the dermal layer, poor hygiene, physical contact with dead or corpses, interpersonal contamination and certain moral offenses. Food Rejection
The most basic elicitor of disgust in humans is food. This arises from the fundamental fact that living organisms, especially humans, need to eat. The need for food is more frequent than any other things. Food shaped cultures more than anything because people are more inclined to eat together. Anything that seems delicious for us today is the result of the thousands of years of cultural transformations. On the other hand, anything disgusting today is also the result of these transformations. Using food as the variable in experimental studies, disgust can be classified under food rejection.
The laws of sympathetic magic are concerned on the differentiation between acceptable foods or foods that are thought to be offensive and contaminating (Rozin & Fallon, 94) in different cultures. The mouth plays a very important role since it is the main entry point into the human body. It is therefore important to determine which food must be eaten. Offensive and contaminating foods are rendered inedible thus preserving the health of populations or religious entities. Food rejection is the avoidance of offensive and contaminating foods.
Several factors affect people’s perception of likes and dislikes. Rozin (1986) noted that many people dislike certain foods and render it contaminating and inedible. Distaste is the most frequent elicitor of disgust which is also characterized as food rejection. Issues Related with One-Trial Learning Studies on one-trial learning of disgust have been used in exploring the nature of disgust. In this context, a number of individuals are being asked to fill-up questionnaires or survey forms which ask for event(s) that changed their perception of likes to dislikes or dislikes to likes.
Initial results showed that it is harder for people to provide preferences rather than creating aversions. This is supported by data gathered from the one-trial learning study done by Rozin (1986). Table 1 shows the number of incidence of reported one-trial learning. However, there are certain issues on the accuracy of the results of one-trial learning. These issues are subjects of debates on the reliability of one-trial learning in the study of disgust. Issues include errors in the statistical method used, bias as results of world events, and biases about learning of new negative events (Rozin, 1986).
Relationship of Hedonic Processes to other Cognitive Processes Hedonic shifts in relation to disgust are more on aversions rather than preferences. This was proved using the one-trial learning study on human perceptions of likes and dislikes. The results of the one-trial learning studies showed that there is greater tendency for people to shift from like to dislike and lesser tendency to do otherwise. Thus, negative hedonic shift is more common in disgust. Conclusion Psychologists and socio-analysts have long been fascinated with the study of disgust as an emotion.
A number of articles have been produced in attempts of explaining the emotion. The expression of disgust is divided into four components: behavioral, physiological, expressive, and qualia components. Among these components, the most easily identified is the expressive component which is seen through facial expressions. The facial expressions include crossed eyebrows, raised or curled lips, and wrinkled nose. The two laws of sympathetic magic played important roles in the development and maintenance of disgust.
Studies showed that people tend to dislike someone or something that is related to an object (animate or not) in either contagion or similarities. These two laws are vital to the development of cultural entities. Finally, the use of one-trial learning in exploring the hedonic shifts of people in relation to disgust raised many issues that are subjects of debates. The issues include errors in the statistical method used, bias as results of world events, and biases about learning of new negative events.
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