Conference Talk II – CBEN 2021

People Expect Different Aggressive Motivations from Expressors of Anger Versus Disgust

Lei Fan, Catherine Molho, Thomas Kupfer, & Joshua M. Tybur

Previous studies suggest that self-reports of anger versus disgust differentially relate to desires to aggress directly versus indirectly against moral violators. The current study tested whether people infer different aggressive motivations from others who express anger versus disgust toward moral violations. In the current pre-registered study (N = 800), we randomly assigned participants to observe an agent – either a second party or a third party – expressing either anger or disgust toward a moral violation. Emotion was expressed nonverbally, via both a facial expression and a vocalization simultaneously. Participants then rated the likelihood that the expressor was motivated to behave in various directly versus indirectly aggressive manners. Results revealed that: (1) participants expected more direct aggression from anger expressors than from disgust expressors, but no differences for indirect aggression; (2) no differences in aggression expectations across second- versus third-party expressors. However, in exploratory analyses, we found that: (3) participants perceived greater moral wrongness and experienced higher levels of both anger and disgust when the agent was a third party than was a second party; (4) participants reported slightly greater anger than disgust toward the moral violator after viewing an anger expressor, but they reported much greater disgust toward the moral violator after viewing a disgust expressor. Results suggest that expressions of anger versus disgust toward moral violations communicate information regarding aggressive intentions.

Keywords: disgust; anger; aggression; emotion; morality