“As an emotion, disgust is designed as a protection,” said Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself. People become focused on ‘self’ and they’re less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur: If I’m disgusted and more focused on myself and I need to lie a little bit to gain a small advantage, I’ll do that. That’s the underlying mechanism.”

In turn, the researchers found that cleansing behaviors actually mitigate the self-serving effects of disgust. “If you can create conditions where people’s disgust is mitigated, you should not see this (unethical) effect,” Mittal said. “One way to mitigate disgust is to make people think about something clean. If you can make people think of cleaning products — for example, Kleenex or Windex — the emotion of disgust is mitigated, so the likelihood of cheating also goes away. People don’t know it, but these small emotions are constantly affecting them.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your protagonist is so disgusted that he or she feels entitled to cheat.

Journaling Prompt: Does the way you feel affect  your integrity? Write about several examples.

Art Prompt: Disgust

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the phenomenon of cheating and what allows people to feel entitled to do it.

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Meyer-van Voorthuijsen on Flickr

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