Disgusted - Functions of Disgust

Functions of Disgust

The emotion of disgust can be described to serve as an affective mechanism following occurrences of negative social value, provoking repulsion, and desire for social distance. The origin of disgust can be defined by motivating the avoidance of offensive things, and in the context of a social environment, it can become an instrument of social avoidance. An example of disgust in action can be found from the Bible in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus includes direct commandments from God to avoid disgust causing individuals, which included people who were sexually immoral and those who had leprosy. Disgust is also known to have originally evolved as a response to unpleasant food that may have been carriers of disease. As an affective instrument for reducing motivations for social interaction, disgust can be anticipated to interfere with dehumanization or the maltreatment of persons as less than human. Research was performed which conducted several functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) in which participants viewed images of individuals from stigmatized groups that were associated with disgust, which were drug addicts and homeless people. What the study found was that people were not inclined in making inferences about the mental conditions of these particular disgust inducing groups. Therefore, examining images of homeless people and drug addicts caused disgust in the response of the people who participated with this study. This study coincides with disgust following the law of contagion, which explains that contact with disgusting material renders one disgusting. Disgust can be applied towards people and can function as maltreatment towards another human being. Disgust can exclude people from being a part of the inner circle by leading to the view that they are merely less than human. An example of this is if groups were to avoid people from outside of their own particular group. Some researchers have distinguished between two different forms of dehumanization. The first form is the denial of uniquely human traits, examples include: products of culture and modification. The second form is the denial of human nature, examples include: emotionality and personality. Failure to attribute distinctively human traits to a group leads to animalistic dehumanization, which defines the object group or individual as savage, crude, and similar to animals. These forms of dehumanization have clear connections to disgust. Researchers have proposed that many disgust elicitors are disgusting because they are reminders that humans are not diverse from other creatures. With the aid of disgust, animalistic dehumanization directly reduces one’s moral concerns towards excluding members from the outer group. Disgust can be a cause and consequence of dehumanization. Animalistic dehumanization may generate feelings of disgust and revulsion. Feelings of disgust, through rousing social distance, may lead to dehumanization. Therefore, a person or group that is generally connected with disgusting effects and seen as physically unclean may induce moral avoidance. Being deemed disgusting produces a variety of cognitive effects that result in exclusion from the perceived inner group.

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