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Moralization Through Moral Shock: Exploring Emotional Antecedents to Moral Conviction

November 21, 2016 by

The current research tested whether exposure to disgusting images increases moral conviction and whether this happens in the presence of incidental disgust cues versus disgust cues relevant to the target of moralization. Across two studies, we exposed participants to one of the four sets of disgusting versus control images to test the moralization of abortion attitudes: pictures of aborted fetuses, animal abuse, non-harm related disgusting images, harm related disgusting images, or neutral pictures, at either sub- or supraliminal levels of awareness. Moral conviction about abortion increased (compared with control) only for participants exposed to abortion-related images at speeds slow enough to allow conscious awareness. Study 2 replicated this finding, and found that the relationship between attitudinally relevant disgust and moral conviction was mediated by disgust, and not anger or harm appraisals. Findings are discussed in terms of their relevance for intuitionist theories of morality and moral theories that emphasize harm.

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