Human cognition ascribes essence to natural kinds (e.g., animals) but not to artifacts (e.g., furniture): The former, but not the latter, are perceived to have “deep,” immutable, biologically-rooted qualities, defining features and clear boundaries. The extent to which people essentialize social groups varies
across both targets and perceivers, with important implications (e.g., Haslam & Ernst, 2006). Building on the construct of essentialism, I propose that (1) conservatism is associated with an essentialist view of social distinctions (2) disgust is an essentializing emotion. Two sets of studies examined (some aspects
of) these proposition. The first set of studies (three studies, total N=384) shows that disgust toward a social group communicates an essentialist view of that group. Specifically, speakers who expressed disgust (compared to anger) towards a social group were perceived as communicating a belief in a
group’s negative essence. The second set of studies (three studies, total N=424) shows that non-shared disgust serves as a basis for out-grouping on moral grounds. Specifically, it shows that disagreement on physical disgust (but not disagreement on other emotions, nor agreement on physical disgust) gave rise
to judgments of lacking morality. I discuss the possibility suggest that conservative views are characterized by essentializing social distinctions and therefore embrace the disgust-based moral value of purity.
Tel Aviv University