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An evolutionary perspective on the role of disgust in psychiatric illness (2016)

Working Group in Social and Biological Determinants of Health

Organizers are Eleanor Hanna and Caroline Amoroso. Disgust is an unsolved puzzle in emotion research, in part because it is difficult to determine the function of an emotion that responds to so many different things. If the smell of rotting fruit can inspire the same emotional experience as reading about the behavior of a sleazy politician, what possible underlying role could that emotion perform? Furthermore, what evolutionary pressures could have shaped it? These questions have taken on increased importance in recent years, in the light of an influx of research suggesting that disgust may play a critical role in a variety of psychiatric diseases, from obsessive compulsive disorder to eating disorders. The goal of our working group is to draw on the existing literature across a variety of disciplines in order to investigate the relationship between disgust and diseases of the mind, from the standpoint of evolutionary medicine.



Sinnott-Armstrong W and Katz S. (2017) Gross! Ethical Issues Surrounding Disgust. Lulu Press.

Hanna E and Sinnott-Armstrong W. (2018) Disgusting discrepancies: moral disgust as threat compensation. In: The Moral Psychology of Disgust (Rowman & Littlefield), ed. V Kumar and N Strohminger.

Amoroso C, Hanna E, LaBar KS, et al. (2020) Disgust theory through the lens of psychiatric medicineClinical Psychological Science 8(1): 3-24.

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