Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychologists Shed Light On Origins Of Morality

Date:
March 2, 2009
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
People sometimes say that immoral behavior leaves a bad taste in your mouth. A new study provides evidence of a link between moral disgust and more primitive forms of disgust related to poison and disease.

New scientific evidence from the University of Toronto that shows a link between moral disgust and more primitive forms of disgust related to poison and disease.
Credit: Image copyright Science/AAAS

In everyday language, people sometimes say that immoral behaviours “leave a bad taste in your mouth”. But this may be more than a metaphor according to new scientific evidence from the University of Toronto that shows a link between moral disgust and more primitive forms of disgust related to poison and disease.

Related Articles


“Morality is often pointed to as the pinnacle of human evolution and development,” says lead author Hanah Chapman, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology. “However, disgust is an ancient and rather primitive emotion which played a key evolutionary role in survival. Our research shows the involvement of disgust in morality, suggesting that moral judgment may depend as much on simple emotional processes as on complex thought.”

The research is being published in Science on February 27, 2009.

In the study, the scientists examined facial movements when participants tasted unpleasant liquids and looked at photographs of disgusting objects such as dirty toilets or injuries. They compared these to their facial movements when they were subjected to unfair treatment in a laboratory game. The U of T team found that people make similar facial movements in response to both primitive forms of disgust and moral disgust.

The research employed electromyography, a technique that uses small electrodes placed on the face to detect electrical activation that occurs when the facial muscles contract. In particular, they focused on movement of the levator labii muscle, which acts to raise the upper lip and wrinkle the nose, movements that are thought to be characteristic of the facial expression of disgust.

“We found that people show activation of this muscle region in all three situations – when tasting something bad, looking at something disgusting and experiencing unfairness,” says Chapman.

“These results shed new light on the origins of morality, suggesting that not only do complex thoughts guide our moral compass, but also more primitive instincts related to avoiding potential toxins,” says Adam Anderson, principal investigator on the project and the Canada Research Chair in Affective Neuroscience. “Surprisingly, our sophisticated moral sense of what is right and wrong may develop from a newborn’s innate preference for what tastes good and bad, what is potentially nutritious versus poisonous.”

The research was supported by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Research Chairs program. In addition to Anderson and Chapman, the U of T team included David Kim and Joshua Susskind.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H.A. Chapman, D.A. Kim, J.M. Susskind, and A.K. Anderson. In Bad Taste: Evidence for the Oral Origins of Moral Disgust. Science, 2009; 323 (5918): 1222 DOI: 10.1126/science.1165565

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Psychologists Shed Light On Origins Of Morality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226141108.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2009, March 2). Psychologists Shed Light On Origins Of Morality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226141108.htm
University of Toronto. "Psychologists Shed Light On Origins Of Morality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226141108.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

After Sony Hack, What's Next?

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 19, 2014) The hacking attack on Sony Pictures has U.S. government officials weighing their response to the cyber-attack. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins