Gut Check: Reappraisal of Disgust Helps Explain Liberal-Conservative Differences on Issues of Purity

Disgust plays an important role in conservatives’ moral and political judgments, helping to explain why conservatives and liberals differ in their attitudes on issues related to purity. We examined the extent to which the emotion-regulation strategy reappraisal drives the disgust-conservatism relationship. We hypothesized that disgust has less influence on the political and moral judgments of liberals because they tend to regulate disgust reactions through emotional reappraisal more than conservatives. Study 1a found that a greater tendency to reappraise disgust was negatively associated with conservatism, independent of disgust sensitivity. Study 1b replicated this finding, demonstrating that the effect of reappraisal is unique to disgust. In Study 2, liberals condemned a disgusting act less than conservatives, and did so to the extent that they reappraised their initial disgust response. Study 3 manipulated participants’ use of reappraisal when exposed to a video of men kissing. Conservatives instructed to reappraise their emotional reactions subsequently expressed more support for same-sex marriage than conservatives in the control condition, demonstrating attitudes statistically equivalent to liberal participants.