Conference Talk – EASP 2023

Beyond outrage: Observers anticipate different behaviors from expressors of anger versus disgust

The modern world affords unprecedented opportunities for individuals to express themselves. The widespread distribution of one specific type of expression – moral outrage – has consequences for social and political harmony. The current investigation contributes to better understanding these consequences by examining what types of aggression people expect from the outraged. Further, it delineates how these expectations are shaped by the emotion used to express outrage. Three pre-registered studies (N’s = 800, 1630, 1100) revealed that people infer different types of aggression from individuals who expressed anger nonverbally compared with those who expressed disgust nonverbally. Perceptions that the outraged individual was angry corresponded with expectations of direct aggression rather than indirect aggression, whereas perceptions that the outraged individual was disgusted corresponded with expectations of indirect aggression rather than direct aggression. These results revealed that the distinct emotions used to communicate outrage shape observers’ expectations of how moral conflicts will unfold.