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Disgust, Harm, and Morality in Politics

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Abstract

This study experimentally tests a theoretical framework for moral judgment in politics, which integrates two research traditions, Domain-Theory and Sentimentalism, to suggest that moral judgment is bidimensional, with one dimension pertaining to harm and the other to moral emotions. Two experiments demonstrate that priming harm associations and the moral emotion of disgust prior to a political issue facilitates moral conviction on the political issue as well as a harsher moral judgment compared to no-prime and to nonmoral emotional and cognitive negative primes (sadness and damage to objects). In addition, harm cues and disgust, but not sadness or damage, interact with the preexisting attitude toward the political issue in affecting moral conviction.

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