Policing the perimeter: Disgust and purity in democratic debate

Peter Hatemi, Rose McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We explicate the precise role that one specific emotion, disgust, plays in generating political acrimony. We do this by identifying the link between the different dimensions along which moral judgments are made by those espousing different political ideologies and the different emotions which undergird these evaluations. These assessments reliably track along liberal and conservative dimensions and are linked to the way values associated with purity and sanctity elicit greater degrees of disgust among conservatives. Here, we review a growing literature showing how disgust affects the psychology of politics through its influence on the cognitive and emotional processes that govern judgments of morality, as well as its direct impact on specific policy preferences. We then apply these findings to the nature and tenor of political discourse and suggest some ways that disgust might affect the character and function of democratic debate and tolerance. Finally, we discuss what these findings mean for public policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-687
Number of pages13
JournalPS - Political Science and Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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