Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Psychology

First Advisor

John E. Lewis

Second Advisor

Jaime L. Tartar

Third Advisor

Ryan A. Black


Disgust, Event Related Potentials, Ideology, Late Positive Potential, Moral Foundations, Political Psychology


The aim of the current paper is to examine the association between ideology and disgust sensitivity. Studying disgust offers an to assess how judgments have evolved over time due to a “gut” sense of danger. This emotion also plays a role in moral judgment: individuals label moral wrongdoings as disgusting which elicits a specific facial expression. For this reason, disgust has recently been found to be a plausible emotion involved in political decision-making. Studies indicate that liberals and conservatives rely on respective moral foundations that influence their choices. Haidt et al. (2009) argue that liberals’ views on morality are based primarily on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, whereas conservatives’ views on morality show a more even distribution across the foundations, including those endorsed by liberals, as well as ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect and sanctity. Schnall et al. (2008) suggest a causal relationship between feelings of disgust and moral convictions. People often rely on moral reasoning when they do not have an intuitive response or when their intuition is conflicting. The current study examined this complex relationship by assessing disgust sensitivity while simultaneously manipulating emotional state through the use of emotionally disgusting and neutral pictures. Electroencephalographic (EEG) event related brain potentials (ERPs) were used as the primary index of emotional processing. The results indicated a main effect for electrode site location and for picture image, as expected. Results did not show an interaction between disgust sensitivity and ideology, or any mediating factors, suggesting that there may be no statistically significant differences in disgust sensitivity between liberals and conservatives. These results suggest that the core differences between conservatives and liberals may be exaggerated. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

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