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Disgust, contempt, and anger and the stereotypes of obese people

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Disgust, contempt, and anger and the stereotypes of obese people

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Emotions form an important part of stereotyping and prejudice, but little is known about how intergroup emotions are associated with anti-fat prejudice. This study examined the relation between negative intergroup emotions (disgust, contempt, and anger) and the stereotypes of obese people. A community sample (n = 380) and an undergraduate sample (n = 96) rated obese people on common obesity stereotypes (e.g., lazy, sloppy), and also indicated the extent to which they felt disgust, contempt, and anger toward obese people. In both samples, participants reported feeling more disgust and contempt than anger toward obese people. Furthermore, regression analyses indicated that disgust was a significant positive predictor of obesity stereotypes, but contempt and anger were not. Overall, these findings provide further evidence that disgust plays an important role in prejudice toward obese people.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Disgust, contempt, and anger and the stereotypes of obese people
Lenny R. Vartanian
Margaret A. Thomas
Eric J. Vanman
Received: 1 July 2013 / Accepted: 31 August 2013 / Published online: 25 September 2013
Ó Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013
Abstract
Purpose Emotions form an important part of stereotyping
and prejudice, but little is known about how intergroup
emotions are associated with anti-fat prejudice. This study
examined the relation between negative intergroup emo-
tions (disgust, contempt, and anger) and the stereotypes of
obese people.
Method A community sample (n = 380) and an under-
graduate sample (n = 96) rated obese people on common
obesity stereotypes (e.g., lazy, sloppy), and also indicated
the extent to which they felt disgust, contempt, and anger
toward obese people.
Results In both samples, participants reported feeling
more disgust and contempt than anger toward obese peo-
ple. Furthermore, regression analyses indicated that disgust
was a significant positive predictor of obesity stereotypes,
but contempt and anger were not.
Conclusion Overall, these findings provide further evi-
dence that disgust plays an important role in prejudice
toward obese people.
Keywords Intergroup emotions Disgust
Contempt Anger Obesity Stereotypes
Introduction
Obese people are frequently the targets of bias and dis-
crimination in a range of settings, including employment,
education, and interpersonal relationships [1]. Negative
attitudes toward obese individuals are observed both
explicitly and implicitly [2], and there are also a range of
negative stereotypes commonly attributed to obese indi-
viduals, such as being lazy, sloppy, and unattractive [1].
Furthermore, research has found that obese people are seen
as having lower social status than non-obese people, and
that perceptions of obese people’s lower status are associ-
ated with attributions of incompetence [3]. Importantly,
there is evidence that obese people are currently stigmatized
more than other historically marginalized groups (e.g.,
homosexuals, ethnic minorities) [4, 5], and that attitudes
toward obese people are worse today than they were in the
1960s [6]. Given the pervasiveness of prejudice toward
obese people, it is important to understand the processes
underlying these negative attitudes and stereotypes.
Emotions form an important part of stereotyping, pre-
judice, and intergroup relations [7, 8]. Examination of
intergroup emotions toward obese individuals, however, has
lagged behind the study of emotions toward other social
groups. Some initial work examining emotional responses
to obese people has focused on the emotion of disgust. For
example, one study found activation in brain regions asso-
ciated with disgust (such as the insula) when participants
viewed images of obese individuals [9], and other work has
found that obesity is associated with disease-related con-
cepts [10]. More recently, Vartanian [5] showed that the
more disgusting participants rated obese people, the more
negative was their overall attitude toward obese people.
Thus, disgust may be an important intergroup emotion to
consider in understanding people’s negative reactions to
L. R. Vartanian (&)
School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales,
Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
e-mail: lvartanian@psy.unsw.edu.au
M. A. Thomas
Department of Psychology, Earlham College, Richmond,
IN, USA
E. J. Vanman
School of Psychology, The University of Queensland,
St. Lucia, QLD, Australia
123
Eat Weight Disord (2013) 18:377–382
DOI 10.1007/s40519-013-0067-2
obese individuals. One aim of the present study was to
extend the findings of previous research by determining
whether disgust is also related to the stereotypes commonly
associated with obese individuals.
In addition to disgust, other intergroup emotions that are
related to prejudice toward various social groups include
contempt and anger. Contempt, anger, and disgust have all
been described as ‘moral emotions’ that are uniquely
associated with violation of a particular moral code [11]. For
example, Rozin et al. [11] argued that disgust is elicited
when individuals cause impurity or degradation to the self or
to others; contempt is elicited when individuals violate their
duties or responsibilities within the community or social
hierarchy; and anger is elicited when individuals harm oth-
ers or infringe on the freedom of others. More recently,
Hutcherson and Gross [12] have shown that disgust is
associated with intentional immoral behaviors, contempt
seems to be related to judgments of someone being incom-
petent, and anger is evoked by appraisals of the self-rele-
vance of a transgression. Although these researchers
consider disgust, contempt, and anger to be distinct emo-
tions, other researchers cluster contempt and disgust toge-
ther as ‘avoidance’ emotions and contrast them with anger,
which is considered to be an ‘approach’ emotion [13].
Research has also shown that different emotions can be
elicited by different social groups, depending on the type of
threat evoked by that group. For example, anger is the
typical response when valuable resources (such as jobs) are
taken and disgust is the typical response when there is the
potential for contamination [14]. Related work has further
shown that people’s emotional states can influence their
judgments of social groups but only when the specific
emotion is relevant to the group in question. For example,
Dasgupta et al. [15] showed that eliciting anger in partici-
pants led to heightened negative implicit evaluations of
Arabs, but not of homosexuals, because Arabs are typically
associated with threat; in contrast, eliciting disgust led to
heightened negative implicit evaluations of homosexuals,
but not of Arabs, because homosexuals are seen as violating
moral values. Thus, a second aim of this study was to
determine whether disgust, contempt, and anger are differ-
entially associated with the stereotypes of obese individuals.
The current study
This study extends previous research by focusing on a
broader range of intergroup emotions (contempt and anger,
in addition to disgust), and by examining how they are
related to the stereotypes of obese people (rather than
simply to overall attitudes). Participants provided their
impressions of obese people in terms of common obesity
stereotypes (e.g., lazy, sloppy), and also indicated the
extent to which they felt disgust, contempt, and anger
toward obese people. Based on previous research indicat-
ing that disgust and contempt are associated with violations
of social norms or moral standards, and that anger is related
to personally relevant transgressions or threat [11, 12, 14,
15], we predicted that disgust and contempt responses
would be more relevant than anger responses in relation to
obese people. Following from work showing that disgust
predicts negative attitudes toward obese people [5], as well
as the work pointing to the similarities between disgust and
contempt [13], we also predicted that disgust (and perhaps
contempt) would be positively associated with common
obesity stereotypes, but that anger would not.
Method
To enhance the generalizability of our results, two separate
samples were included in this study: The first consisted of
an online sample of community members and the second
consisted of a sample of undergraduate students. To high-
light the similarities in results across samples, both are
described together.
Participants
Community sample
Participants from the community sample were 231 women
and 149 men who completed an online survey. Participants
were recruited through the Amazon Mechanical Turk
website. Individuals who are registered with Amazon
Mechanical Turk have access to a range of tasks that they
can complete for small monetary incentives. They then
select, of their own volition, which tasks they wish to
complete. Participants were paid $1 for taking part in the
current study. Their mean age was 35.03 years
(SD = 12.23) and their mean body mass index (BMI:
kg/m
2
) was 25.87 (SD = 6.16). The majority of the sample
was White (n = 284; 74.7 %), 8.7 % was African Ameri-
can (n = 33), 7.1 % was Asian (n = 27), 5.8 % was His-
panic (n = 22), and 3.7 % reported that they were ‘other’
(n = 14). All participants were based in the USA.
Undergraduate sample
Participants from the undergraduate sample were 96 students
(57 men, 39 women) at a small private university in the
northeastern United States who signed up for a study on the
perception of others. Participants received course credit in
their introductory psychology class for taking part in this
study. Their mean age was 19.16 years (SD = 2.42) and
their mean BMI was 24.76 (SD = 5.05). The majority of the
sample was White (n = 69; 71.9 %), 11.5 % was African
378 Eat Weight Disord (2013) 18:377–382
123
American (n = 11), 10.4 % was Hispanic (n = 10), 6.3 %
was Asian (n = 6), and 1.0 % identified as ‘other’’ (n = 1).
Materials and procedure
This study consisted of a web-based survey that was
completed online (for the community sample) or on com-
puters in the lab (for the undergraduate sample). After
providing informed consent, participants were asked to
indicate the extent to which they believed that a variety of
characteristics applied to obese people (1 = Not at all;
7 = Very much). Included among these were five charac-
teristics that are common stereotypes of obese people (lazy,
sloppy, attractive [reverse coded], overindulgent, and poor
personal hygiene) [1], which were combined to form a
single index of obesity stereotypes. Cronbach’s alpha was
0.83 for the community sample and 0.69 for the student
sample. After completing the trait ratings, participants were
asked to indicate the extent to which they feel disgust,
contempt, and anger when they think about obese people
(1 = Not at all; 7 = Very much). Finally, participants
provided some demographic information, including their
sex, age, height and weight (used to calculate their BMI),
and also indicated how many of their friends/family
members were obese (1 = None; 5 = All). This study was
approved by the relevant ethics committees.
Statistical analyses
First, correlations were computed among all of the mea-
sured variables to identify potential covariates (see
Table 1). To test the hypothesis that disgust and contempt
would be more strongly associated with obesity than would
anger, a mixed-model ANOVA was conducted with inter-
group emotion (disgust vs. contempt vs. anger) as the
within-subjects factor, and participant sex (male vs.
female) as the between-subjects factor. We next conducted
multiple regression analyses to determine whether the
intergroup emotions predicted common obesity stereo-
types. Disgust, contempt, and anger were entered simul-
taneously as predictor variables, and the obesity
stereotypes composite index was entered as the outcome
variable. Prior to conducting the regression analyses, data
were screened for univariate and multivariate outliers.
Results
Intergroup emotions
Community sample
The mixed-model ANOVA revealed a main effect of
intergroup emotion, F(1.97
G-G
, 736.75
G-G
) = 85.40,
p \0.001, g
p
2
= 0.19. Ratings were highest for disgust
(M = 2.84, SD = 1.83), followed by contempt (M = 2.31,
SD = 1.62), and ratings were lowest for anger (M = 1.82,
SD = 1.43), all ps \ 0.001. There was also a main effect
of participant sex, F(1, 375) = 3.98, p = 0.05, g
p
2
= 0.01,
with men overall reporting more of the intergroup emotions
toward obese people than did women (M
men
= 2.50,
SD
men
= 1.37 vs. M
women
= 2.21, SD
women
= 1.36).
There was no participant-sex 9 intergroup-emotion inter-
action (F = 1.65, p = 0.19). Age, BMI, and number of
obese friends/family members were each significantly
correlated with one or more of the intergroup emotions,
and were therefore entered as covariates in a separate
analysis. When these demographic variables were entered
as covariates, the main effect of intergroup emotion
remained significant (F = 11.71, p \ 0.001), but the main
effect of participant sex was no longer significant
(F = 2.65, p = 0.10).
Table 1 Bivariate correlations among all measured variables
12345678
1. Disgust 0.57*** 0.64*** 0.60*** -0.13* -0.19*** -0.15** -0.12*
2. Contempt 0.21* 0.50*** 0.32*** -0.07 -0.14** -0.06 -0.18**
3. Anger 0.69*** 0.20 0.32*** -0.07 -0.18*** -0.09 -0.10
4. Obesity stereotypes 0.53*** 0.09 0.44*** -0.19*** -0.19*** -0.14** -0.17**
5. Sex -0.19 -0.03 -0.05 -0.19 0.04 -0.03 0.10
6. Age -0.08 0.04 -0.08 0.12 0.08 0.13* 0.06
7. BMI 0.11 0.18 0.03 0.08 -0.14 -0.07 0.26***
8. Obese family/friends -0.17 0.09 -0.07 -0.09 0.07 0.09 0.05
Correlations for the community sample appear above the diagonal, and correlations for the undergraduate sample appear below the diagonal. For
Sex, men are coded as 0 and women are coded as 1
* p \ 0.05, ** p \0.01, *** p \ 0.001
Eat Weight Disord (2013) 18:377–382 379
123
Undergraduate sample
There was a main effect of intergroup emotion, F(1.59
G-G
,
149.17
G-G
) = 18.03, p \ 0.001, g
p
2
= 0.16. Ratings for
disgust (M = 2.98, SD = 1.70) and contempt (M = 3.07,
SD = 1.54) did not differ from one another (p = 0.49), but
both were significantly higher than ratings for anger
(M = 2.06, SD = 1.45), ps \ 0.001. There was no main
effect of participant sex (F = 1.42, p = 0.24) and no
participant-sex 9 intergroup-emotion interaction (F =
1.48,p = 0.23). None of the demographic variables (age,
BMI, and number of obese friends/family members) were
significantly correlated with the intergroup emotions in the
undergraduate sample, and they were therefore not inclu-
ded as covariates.
Regression analyses
Community sample
The overall model predicting scores on the obesity ste-
reotypes index was significant, F(3, 368) = 64.43,
p \0.001, accounting for 34 % of the variance. Disgust
was a significant positive predictor of obesity stereotypes,
but contempt and anger were not significant predictors (see
Table 2). Conceptually, the term ‘poor personal hygiene’
may be more closely related to disgust than the other
common stereotypes of obese people. Excluding this item,
however, had no impact on the results. Sex, age, BMI, and
number of obese friends/family members were all signifi-
cantly correlated with obesity stereotypes, and were
therefore entered as covariates in a separate analysis.
Including those demographic factors in model did not
change the pattern of results (disgust: b = 0.61, p \ 0.001;
contempt: b =-0.01, p = 0.83; anger: b =-0.10,
p = 0.08).
Undergraduate sample
The overall model predicting common obesity stereotypes
was significant, F(3, 93) = 11.91, p \ 0.001, accounting
for 26 % of the variance. Disgust was a significant positive
predictor of obesity stereotypes, but contempt and anger
were not significant predictors (see Table 2). As with the
community sample, removing the item ‘poor personal
hygiene’ had no impact on the results. None of the
demographic factors (sex, age, BMI, and number of obese
friends/family members) were significantly correlated with
obesity stereotypes, and they were therefore not tested as
possible covariates.
Discussion
The purpose of the present study was to further examine
intergroup emotions and the stereotypes of obese people.
We predicted that obese people would elicit more disgust
and more contempt than anger, and our results support this
prediction. In the community sample, participants indicated
that they felt more disgust than contempt, and more con-
tempt than anger toward obese people. In the undergrad-
uate student sample, disgust and contempt did not differ,
but were both rated higher than anger. These findings
support the view that disgust is an intergroup emotion
relevant to judgments of obese people [5, 9, 10], and fur-
ther suggest that disgust (and to some extent contempt)
may play a more important role than other intergroup
emotions such as anger.
It should be noted that the results for contempt did vary
between the samples. Specifically, whereas the community
sample expressed more disgust than contempt, the under-
graduate sample reported similar levels of disgust and
contempt. Although it is often a focus in prejudice
research, the emotions literature does suggest that contempt
can be a contentious emotion. For example, a meta-analysis
by Elfenbein and Ambady [16] showed that contempt was
the most poorly recognized of the basic emotions cross-
culturally, and Tracy and Robins [17] found that partici-
pants had the most difficulty recognizing contempt (per-
forming below chance). Furthermore, Haidt [18] suggested
that English speakers generally do not know the meaning
of the word contempt. Thus, the discrepancy observed
between our two samples may have to do with differences
in their understanding and/or use of the term contempt.
As expected, anger was not as strongly associated
with obesity as were disgust and contempt. Most
Table 2 Multiple regression analyses predicting obesity stereotype from intergroup emotions
Predictor Community sample Undergraduate sample
B SE b pBSE b p
Disgust 0.41 0.04 0.64 \0.001 0.24 0.07 0.42 0.002
Contempt 0.001 0.04 0.001 0.98 0.01 0.06 0.01 0.90
Anger -0.08 0.05 -0.10 0.10 0.11 0.09 0.15 0.26
380 Eat Weight Disord (2013) 18:377–382
123
conceptualizations of anger refer to people’s reaction to
infringements on their own rights and freedom [11], and
anger expressions intensify as the self-relevance of the
infringement increases [12]. Because obese people are not
generally seen as threatening to others or infringing on the
freedom of others, anger is not likely to be strongly asso-
ciated with obese people in most cases. There may be some
scenarios, however, in which anger can be evoked by obese
people. For example, obesity might be seen as infringing
on one’s own personal freedom when considering the
healthcare costs associated with obesity that are incurred
by taxpayers, when confronted with possible legislation to
tax or restrict access to certain foods, or when sitting next
to an obese person on an airplane. Similarly, the self-rel-
evance of the problems associated with obesity might well
increase when the obese individual is a close friend, family
member, or spouse, and this self-relevance could poten-
tially lead to anger directed toward that person. These
hypotheses could be tested in future research.
In addition to examining overall differences in the
extent to which people reported feeling various intergroup
emotions toward obese people, we were also interested in
the extent to which those emotions were associated with
the stereotypes of obese people. Vartanian [5] found that
disgust was a strong predictor of negative attitudes toward
obese people, and the present findings build on that work
by showing that disgust was also related to common ste-
reotypes of obese people. Indeed, when all three intergroup
emotions were included in the regression analyses, disgust
was the only significant predictor of common obesity ste-
reotypes. Thus, disgust appears to play a prominent role in
both attitudes toward and stereotypes of obese people.
The prominence of disgust in prejudice toward obese
people has important implications for our understanding of
weight bias. Efforts to reduce weight bias have generally
produced disappointing results, both in terms of changing
attitudes [19] and changing stereotypes [20]. It may be that
the persistence of prejudice toward obese people is due to
the nature of disgust as the emotional reaction underlying
this prejudice. Specifically, it has been suggested that dis-
gust may be a less flexible emotion than other emotions,
such as anger. For example, recent research indicates that
anger, but not disgust, is responsive to the circumstances
surrounding a transgression [21] and to intentionality [22],
and that disgust is less likely than anger to be justified by
cognitively elaborated reasoning [23]. The inflexibility of
disgust makes sense from an evolutionary perspective
because it is better to make false alarms than to risk coming
into contact with a disease agent [24]. Thus, if disgust does
indeed play a central role in prejudice toward obese people
(as we have suggested), then this might in part explain why
negative attitudes toward and stereotypes of obese people
are so resistant to change.
Limitations and future directions
There are some limitations of the present study that should
be noted. We assessed verbal reports of emotions toward
obese people, but it is possible that these verbal reports
reflect attitudinal or cognitive aspects of judgments of
obese people rather than actual emotional reactions. Fur-
thermore, as noted above, there were differences in how
our samples responded to the term contempt, suggesting
some people might have difficulty with the verbal label for
that emotion. Future research including behavioral or
physiological measures of emotional responses would be
useful to gain a richer understanding of people’s true
emotional reactions to obesity. The current study also
focused on some of the most common obesity stereotypes
[1], but it is possible that different stereotypes would be
associated with different intergroup emotions. Examining
these associations in future research would provide a more
complete picture of people’s negative reactions to obese
individuals. Another limitation of this study is that the data
are correlational in nature, and we therefore cannot com-
ment on the direction of the association between stereo-
types and emotions. Experimental research manipulating
participants’ emotional states and manipulating the per-
ceived stereotypes associated with obese people would be
needed to establish the causal relationship between ste-
reotypes and emotions. It is possible, for example, that
emotional responses exacerbate existing stereotypes, that
stereotypes arise as a form of justification for one’s emo-
tional responses, or that the stereotypes themselves evoke
the emotional responses. Uncovering the precise nature of
the emotion-stereotype association can have important
implications for a theoretical understanding of weight bias,
and also for bias-reduction efforts.
Conclusion
The findings of the present study are consistent with other
research indicating that disgust may play an important role
in prejudice toward obese people. Disgust was more
strongly associated with obese people than were either
contempt or anger. Furthermore, disgust was the strongest
predictor of common obesity stereotypes. The relevance of
disgust to prejudice toward obese people may in part
explain why such prejudice is so pervasive and resistant to
change.
Acknowledgments Preparation of this article was supported under
Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme
(project number DP130100759).
Conflict of interest On behalf of all authors, the corresponding
author states that there is no conflict of interest.
Eat Weight Disord (2013) 18:377–382 381
123
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... An estimated 2000+ scholarly papers were published throughout the 2010s with "disgust" in the title (see Fig. 1.1). Topics have been as wide ranging as sexual behaviour and dysfunction (Borg and De Jong 2012); biases in threat interpretation (Leathers-Smith and Davey 2011); bodily moral disgust (Russell and Giner-Sorolla 2013); disability and prosthesis use (Burden et al. 2018); disgust and fear modelling in children ; cancer ; politics and voting behaviour (Shook et al. 2017); proenvironmental decision-making ; obesity stigma ; stereotyping and prejudice (Vartanian et al. 2013); disgust and anticipatory nausea in rats (Cloutier et al. 2018); the potential moderation of disgust through mindfulness (Reynolds et al. 2015); body odour (Zakrzewska et al. 2019); and self-directed disgust in mental health . This diverse body of work and much more was undertaken by the authors that have contributed to the current volume. ...
... 8, this volume). Similarly, because obese people are not generally seen as threatening to others, disgust responses are more relevant than are anger responses in prejudice towards obese people (Vartanian et al. 2013. ...
... Research has similarly shown that disgust is associated with the stereotypical characteristics that are attributed to outgroups. For example, disgust towards obese people as a group is correlated with attributing characteristics such as "lazy," "sloppy," and "incompetent" to obese individuals (e.g., Vartanian et al. 2013Vartanian et al. , 2016. ...
... The theme of the Metoo movement "harassment" is identified by observing the text part of the tweets. The existing studies revealed that there is a relationship between the different emotions and dyads such as contempt, remorse, despair and shame [37][38][39]. Based on the frequency of occurrence, the most occurring words related to different emotions such as anger, disgust, sadness, and fear are identified from the word-cloud of citizen-initiated reform. ...
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Abstract In the current scenario while everything seems digitalized, we often spend more time scrolling across various social platforms as compared to what we spend in any other real life activities. It becomes a matter of great concern when it comes to analyze what we see and how it is interpreted. Through this paper we aims to identify the influence of technology assisted social-reform initiatives on gender-based hate content generation. With the help of Twitter API, 112577 government-initiated and 58370 citizen-initiated movement(s) tweets have been extracted. This collected data is examined for hatred nature content in terms of emotions using a software programmed in R programming language, the scores for each emotion is counted and a comparison between both the moments is made. The study clearly shows that the Citizen-initiated moments shares comparatively more hate content than the Government-initiated movements as the scores particular to specific emotions like anger, disgust, and sadness is more. This cognitive study can be helpful in policy making, promoting gender based equality, defining strategies to rebuild citizen initiatives in a hate-free environment and controlling hate content generation.
... 70). Ociosas (Vartanian et al., 2013). Por su nombre se les clasifica: ...
... Sociomoral disgust can occur in response to moral violations, including injustice, harm, and perception of individuals or groups having a bad moral character. Sociomoral disgust is also an extension of Rozin et al. (2000) interpersonal disgust, involving concerns with contamination from other people, which may play a central role in discrimination and stereotyping (Vartanian et al., 2013(Vartanian et al., , 2016. Scholars generally agree on which objects elicit pathogen disgust. ...
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The present study examined mother-child talk about disgust. A total of 68 mothers and their 4-, (Mage = 55.72 months, SD = 4.13), 6- (Mage = 77.70 months, SD = 5.45), and 8- (Mage = 100.90 months, SD = 4.61) year-old children discussed four tasks relating to moral and pathogen disgust. Tasks comprised labeling facial expressions of emotions, generating items that would make participants disgusted or angry, identifying moral and pathogen transgressions as either causing anger or disgust, and finally rating the degree to which moral and pathogen transgressions were disgusting and justifying their responses. Mother-child dyads recognized the facial expression of happiness more accurately than that of disgust, but disgust was recognized equally well as expressions of sadness and anger across all age groups. Dyads associated moral transgressions with anger, whereas they associated pathogen transgressions with disgust. Finally, mothers and children and mothers individually rated pathogen transgressions as more disgusting than moral transgressions. Taken together, findings show that moral disgust is understood at a later age and is only used metaphorically, if at all, in children as old as 8 years old. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... However, exotic origins were also expected to increase intentions to engage in xenophobic behaviors, like avoiding people of Asian descent. Given the strong interrelations between stigma, stereotyping, and disgust (Terrizzi, Shook, & Ventis, 2010;Vartanian, Thomas, & Vanman, 2013, the current study examined how COVID-19 stigma related to xenophobic disease responses and intentions to avoid animal products while adjusting for trait levels of disgust and endorsement of Asian stereotypes. We further hypothesized that COVID-19 stigma mediated the influence of disease origin messaging (e.g., focusing on snakes as the source) on xenophobic and animal avoidance intentions. ...
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Many novel diseases are of zoonotic origin, likely including COVID-19. Describing diseases as originating from a diverse range of animals is known to increase risk perceptions and intentions to engage in preventative behaviors. However, it is also possible that communications depicting use of exotic animals as food sources may activate stereotypes of cultures at the origin of a disease, increasing discriminatory behaviors and disease stigma. We used general linear modeling and mediation analysis to test experimental data on communications about zoonotic disease origins from the critical first two months leading up to the declaration of a global pandemic. Results suggest that communications about potential familiar food origins (pigs) affected people's risk perceptions, health behaviors, and COVID-19 stigma compared to more exotic food sources (e.g., snakes). Participants (N = 707) who read descriptions of exotic origins viewed the virus as riskier and reported stronger intentions to engage in preventative behaviors than those who read about familiar origins (pigs). However, reading exotic origin descriptions was also associated with stronger intentions to avoid Asian individuals and animal products. These results are critical for both theory and public policy. For theory, they are the first to experimentally demonstrate that zoonotic origin descriptions can impact intentions to engage in discriminatory behaviors for cultures viewed as the origin of a novel infectious disease. For policy, they offer clear, actionable insights on how to communicate about risks associated with a novel zoonosis while managing the potential impact on discriminatory behaviors and stigma.
... Sloppiness and laziness were two additional pejorative personality traits more commonly associated with the group of obese men and women. In a separate study, disgust and contempt were additional prejudices held against obese groups (Vartanian, Thomas & Vanman, 2013). Importantly, men showed greater intensity in these negative emotions toward extremely overweight individuals. ...
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This study’s purpose was to assess the prevalence of weight bias in the hiring of female applicants among students attending Southern Methodist University. Weight bias in hiring for a CEO position was assessed in 87 total male and female participants by viewing one of two possible applicants’ resumés – one slim and one overweight female. Experience and qualifications for each resumé were identical, only the headshots differed. Participants saw either the overweight applicant or the slim applicant, after which they filled out a questionnaire that asked them to indicate whether they would hire the individual and state the reason for their decision. We found no significant difference between which applicant participants chose to hire. Gender did not predict which applicant participants were more likely to hire or reject. These findings contradicted our hypotheses. We had predicted that the overweight female applicant would have been hired less by participants, relative to the slim applicant. Additionally, we had predicted that this weight bias against the overweight female applicant would have a higher incidence in males. Similar studies going forward should focus on providing a truly random sample of participants and use clearer instructions to read to the participant. Experimenters should also consider using in-person interviews instead of resumés, and perhaps a larger sample size to determine if in fact there was a detectable effect present. Remaining limitations and explanations for the results will be presented in the discussion.
... This is an interesting result because people are more willing to consume a cookie made from insect flour than other products (bar or shake). One reason for this difference in impression formation versus one's own willingness, may be attributed to attitudes about weight, as people may assume that someone who is willing to consume a cookie is more likely to be bigger, and previous literature has found that people ascribe less positive traits to individuals that are overweight, and that anti-fat attitudes are based in feelings of disgust (Vartanian, 2010;Vartanian, Thomas, & Vanman, 2013). This is supported by the way that participants assumed they would also be heavier and less athletic. ...
Article
Disgust, social influence, and moral concern seem to play a pivotal role in insect consumption. Research examining these factors, particularly in the UK, is currently lacking. As a result, two studies were conducted to examine the perceived barriers and benefits of insect consumption, and how disgust can be counteracted. First, a cross-sectional study (N = 600) showed that disgust and moral concerns were unique predictors of individual’s willingness to consume insect products. Second, we conducted an experiment (N = 519) to examine whether knowledge that someone else consumes an insect-based product impacts one’s own willingness to consume insects. In this study we replicated Hartmann, Ruby, Schmidt, and Siegrist (2018) methodology of giving information about an insect consumer but added details about the individuals’ occupation and what type of product they consumed, examining how these factors impacted individual’s willingness to consume insect-based products. We found that this information did not impact willingness to consume; however, it did influence feelings of disgust and perceived acceptability. This study also replicated the first study by demonstrating that disgust and moral concern are barriers to insect consumption. We hope the current findings trigger future research to examine how disgust can be counteracted, and to better understand the role of moral concern in insect consumption.
... Indeed, obese and overweight patients exhibit specific dysfunctional cognitive body schemata that are not easily detachable from body image construct, and that are different from the normal weight population ones [21]. An implicit or explicit weight stigmatization could bring people to feel more "disgust," "blame," or "contempt" for overweight bodies-both their own bodies and others-with an influence on behaviors and mental health [22][23][24][25]. Such effects could interfere with improving body image after obesity surgery, and, in a second step, reduce mental health and thereby compromise the weight loss [19]. ...
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Purpose Body image has a significant impact on the outcome of obesity surgery. This study aims to perform a semantic evaluation of body shapes in obesity surgery patients and a group of controls. Materials and Methods Thirty-four obesity surgery (OS) subjects, stable after weight loss (average 48.03 ± 18.60 kg), and 35 overweight/obese controls (MC), were enrolled in this study. Body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and body perception were evaluated with self-reported tests, and semantic evaluation of body shapes was performed with three specific tasks constructed with realistic human body stimuli. Results The OS showed a more positive body image compared to HC ( p < 0.001), higher levels of depression ( p < 0.019), and lower self-esteem ( p < 0.000). OS patients and HC showed no difference in weight bias, but OS used a higher BMI than HC in the visualization of positive adjectives ( p = 0.011). Both groups showed a mental underestimation of their body shapes. Conclusion OS patients are more psychologically burdened and have more difficulties in judging their bodies than overweight/obese peers. Their mental body representations seem not to be linked to their own BMI. Our findings provide helpful insight for the design of specific interventions in body image in obese and overweight people, as well as in OS.
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Based on the empirical findings correlating disgust with conservatism, most disgust scholars have fed arguments for its moral unreliability and concluded with moral condemnation of this emotion. In this paper, I will examine common arguments about whether relying on disgust in the moral domain is to be considered good or bad. I will problematize the suggestion that we are justified in firmly believing that disgust is an ethically «dumb» – or an ethically «smart» – emotion. It rather seems that moral disgust can be rational or irrational, pro-social or anti-social, liberal or conservative depending on the eliciting contexts, and that such case-by-case conclusions rely on additional meta-ethical premises.
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Research suggests that people attribute more negative traits to individuals with obesity than to non-obese individuals, and that females with obesity are seen more negatively than males. The theory also suggests that stereotypes are cognitive predecessors of prejudices. The aims of this research were to examine the latent structure underlying anti-fat stereotypical traits, differences in perceiving individuals with obesity and non-obese individuals, male and female individuals with obesity, as well as the role of anti-fat stereotypes in anti-fat prejudices. The sample consisted of 106 respondents (Male = 16; Female = 86; Mean age = 19.98), who graded stimuli photographs of male and female individuals (with obesity and average-weight) on series of anti-fat stereotypical traits on two occasions, and filled in Anti-fat prejudices questionnaire. The data were analyzed through EFA and CFA, ANOVA, and structural equation modeling (moderation). Four factors behind stereotypical traits were extracted: Positive social image, Perceived lack of self-care, Perceived persistence, and Antipathy. It has been shown that respondents gave stimuli photographs of individuals with obesity lower scores on Positive social image and Perceived persistence, and higher scores on Perceived lack of self-care and Antipathy. The same results were obtained for females within the subsample of individuals with obesity. Furthermore, it has been shown that certain anti-fat stereotypes (Positive social image, Perceived lack of self-care, and Perceived persistence) predict anti-fat prejudices, and that gender was a significant moderator of the effect of Perceived lack of self-care on anti-fat prejudices. We can conclude that individuals with obesity are indeed seen in a more negative light than non-obese individuals, and that this is more pronounced for females with obesity, which is in accordance with previous studies. Moreover, the results suggest the possible role of anti-fat stereotypes as cognitive predecessors of anti-fat prejudices, and that gender of individuals with obesity has an effect on this relationship.
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The research examines whether anger rather than disgust is more likely to be responsible for changes in moral judgment, after individuals consider potential circumstances. Participants first read a scenario that described a moral violation (harm or fairness vs. purity) and then gave their initial moral judgment and emotions toward the act. They were then asked to list things that could change their opinion and were provided with an opportunity to fill out the measures again, re-evaluating the scenario with these changes in mind. It was found that ratings of disgust did not change after generating potential circumstances; however, anger changed in differential ways for the two violation types. It was also found that anger but not disgust predicted change in moral judgment. These findings suggest that moral anger is a more flexible emotion than moral disgust because anger is more likely to respond to changes in circumstances.
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In the present research, we tested the unreasoning disgust hypothesis: moral disgust, in particular in response to a violation of a bodily norm, is less likely than moral anger to be justified with cognitively elaborated reasons. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to explain why they felt anger and disgust toward pedophiles. Participants were more likely to invoke elaborated reasons, versus merely evaluative responses, when explaining their anger, versus disgust. Experiment 2 used a between-participants design; participants explained why they felt either anger or disgust toward seven groups that either violated a sexual or nonsexual norm. Again, elaborated reasons were less prevalent when explaining their disgust versus anger and, in particular, when explaining disgust toward a group that violated a sexual norm. Experiment 3 further established that these findings are due to a lower accessibility of elaborated reasons for bodily disgust, rather than inhibition in using them when provided. From these findings, it can be concluded that communicating external reasons for moral disgust at bodily violations is made more difficult due to the unavailability of those reasons to people.
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We propose that, when people judge moral situations, anger responds to the contextual cues of harm and intentionality. On the other hand, disgust responds uniquely to whether or not a bodily norm violation has occurred; its apparent response to harm and intent is entirely explained by the coactivation of anger. We manipulated intent, harm, and bodily norm violation (eating human flesh) within a vignette describing a scientific experiment. Participants then rated their anger, disgust, and moral judgment, as well as various appraisals. Anger responded independently of disgust to harm and intentionality, whereas disgust responded independently of anger only to whether or not the act violated the bodily norm of cannibalism. Theoretically relevant appraisals accounted for the effects of harm and intent on anger; however, appraisals of abnormality did not fully account for the effects of the manipulations on disgust. Our results show that anger and disgust are separately elicited by different cues in a moral situation.
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It has been said that obese persons are the last acceptable targets of discrimination.1-4 Anecdotes abound about overweight individuals being ridiculed by teachers, physicians, and complete strangers in public settings, such as supermarkets, restaurants, and shopping areas. Fat jokes and derogatory portrayals of obese people in popular media are common. Overweight people tell stories of receiving poor grades in school, being denied jobs and promotions, losing the opportunity to adopt children, and more. Some who have written on the topic insist that there is a strong and consistent pattern of discrimination, 5 but no systematic review of the scientific evidence has been done.
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Two studies examined the relationship between social status and obesity stereotypes. In Study 1, obese individuals were seen as having lower status than non-obese individuals, and status ratings were positively correlated with common obesity stereotypes. In Study 2, targets were depicted as overweight or lean, and as having a high-status or low-status job. High-status heavy targets were rated as less lazy and more competent than were their low-status counterparts, but status did not impact ratings of sloppiness or warmth. The findings indicate that obesity can serve as a status cue. Furthermore, the findings provide preliminary evidence that status is related to the attribution of certain stereotypes to obese individuals, while also highlighting the multifaceted nature of obesity stereotypes.
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Three studies investigated implicit biases, and their modifiability, against overweight persons. In Study 1 (N = 144), the authors demonstrated strong implicit anti-fat attitudes and stereotypes using the Implicit Association Test, despite no explicit anti-fat bias. When participants were informed that obesity is caused predominantly by overeating and lack of exercise, higher implicit bias relative to controls was produced; informing participants that obesity is mainly due to genetic factors did not result in lower bias. In Studies 2A (N = 90) and 2B (N = 63), participants read stories of discrimination against obese persons to evoke empathy. This did not lead to lower bias compared with controls but did produce diminished implicit bias among overweight participants, suggesting an in-group bias.
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Humans possess pathogen-avoidance mechanisms that respond to the visual perception of morphological anomalies in others. We investigated whether obesity may trigger these mechanisms. Study 1 revealed that people who are chronically concerned about pathogen transmission have more negative attitudes toward obese people; this effect was especially pronounced following visual exposure to obese individuals. Study 2 revealed that obesity is implicitly associated with disease-connoting concepts; this effect was especially pronounced when the threat of pathogen transmission is highly salient. Evolved pathogen-detection mechanisms are hypersensitive, and they appear to play a role in the stigmatization of obese people.
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Social interactions require fast and efficient person perception, which is best achieved through the process of categorization. However, this process can produce pernicious outcomes, particularly in the case of stigma. This study used fMRI to investigate the neural correlates involved in forming both explicit ("Do you like or dislike this person?") and implicit ("Is this a male or female?") judgments of people possessing well-established stigmatized conditions (obesity, facial piercings, transsexuality, and unattractiveness), as well as normal controls. Participants also made post-scan disgust ratings on all the faces that they viewed during imaging. These ratings were subsequently examined (modeled linearly) in a parametric analysis. Regions of interest that emerged include areas previously demonstrated to respond to aversive and disgust-inducing material (amygdala and insula), as well as regions strongly associated with inhibition and control (anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex). Further, greater differences in activation were observed in the implicit condition for both the amygdala and prefrontal cortical regions in response to the most negatively perceived faces. Specifically, as subcortical responses (e.g., amygdala) increased, cortical responses (e.g., lateral PFC and anterior cingulate) also increased, indicating the possibility of inhibitory processing. These findings help elucidate the neural underpinnings of stigma.