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.

“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 October 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 October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Would A Travel Ban Even Work In Stopping Ebola Spread?

Would A Travel Ban Even Work In Stopping Ebola Spread?

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) The U.S. currently isn't banning travel from Ebola-stricken areas, but it's at least being considered. Some argue though it could be counterproductive. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Facebook Says The DEA's Fake Accounts Go Too Far

Facebook Says The DEA's Fake Accounts Go Too Far

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) Facebook says the DEA violated its Terms of Service and that such impersonations damage the integrity of the site. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tech Giants Push Back After FBI Suggests Less Encryption

Tech Giants Push Back After FBI Suggests Less Encryption

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) FBI Director James Comey's stance on encryption technology isn't receiving much support from the tech community. Video provided by Newsy
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