Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Evolution of Disgust: From Oral to Moral

Insights from and for Emotion Theory, Morality, Intergroup Relations and Psychopathology

Date: January 4 - 7, 2012

Convenor: Jason Clark (Osnabrück)

This conference was (to my knowledge) the first major conference on disgust, drawing an international group of scholars from many disciplines to consider what state of the art research reveals about the evolution of disgust, and to determine where future research should be directed. Several papers addressed varying perspectives on how to typologize disgust, potential relations between competing typologies, and statistical methodology in typologizing disgust. Another set of papers examined the role of disgust in various psychopathologies, such as spider phobia, blood-injection-injury phobia, contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder and self disgust in depression. Moral disgust was considered in terms of its evolutionary history, its continuing role in today’s world, as well as moral assessments of whether disgust should play a role in our moral decisions. Behavioral disease avoidance and disgust were addressed in species from ants and rodents to nonhuman primates. Additional topics included: conflicts between mating and disease avoidance, the role of disgust in hygiene programs, computational mechanisms of disgust, expression and recognition of the disgust face, and linguistic differences in disgust terms.

Areas identified for future research included: a better understanding of the development of disgust, an account of the role of disgust in aesthetics, an account of the regulation of disgust by various other processes such as hunger, sexual desire, and top-down regulation, the need for additional animal studies, especially in primates, the development of new stimuli better designed to dissociate the various forms of disgust, and the role of linguistic differences in the perception and social functions of disgust.

During the conference we had five radio interviews with various local and national stations (incl. Deutschland Radio). There were also four newspaper articles on the conference in German papers (including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Local artists were interested and distributed examples of their work. Following the conference, the New York Times published an article on disgust which referenced and linked to the conference. Since then I’ve done another radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a Q&A with the Israeli daily Globes, and an interview with a the German national magazine, Focus.

The conference was supported by generous funding from the animal emotionale II project, housed at the University of Osnabrück and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Vladimir Bahna (Bratislava), Hanah Chapman (Pasadena, CA), Elena Choleris (Guelph),
Filippo Contesi (Heslington), Julie Coultas (Stockholm), Sylvia Cremer (Klosterneuburg),
Valerie Curtis (London), Mícheal de Barra (London), Andreas De Block (Leuven),
Peter J. de Jong (Groningen), Delphine de Smet (Gent), Linda Deppermann (Osnabrück),
Benedikt Ehinger (Osnabrück), Susanne Erk (Berlin), Daniel M.T. Fessler (Los Angeles, CA),
Petra Fischer (Osnabrück), Dieneke Hubbeling (London), Anna Gert (Osnabrück),
Roger Giner-Sorolla (Canterbury), Kerrin Jacobs (Osnabrück), Christian Kaernbach (Kiel),
Agnieszka Karas (Kiel), Martin Kavaliers (London, ON), Daniel Kelly (West Lafayette, IN),
Jan-Peter Lamke (Berlin), Olivier Lemeire (Leuven), Debra Lieberman (Coral Gables, FL),
Kerstin Limbrecht (Ulm), Oke Martensen (Osnabrück), Johannes Merkel (Osnabrück),
Katharina Müller (Osnabrück), Saskia Nagel (Osnabrück), Bunmi O. Olatunji (Nashville, TN),
Linda Parker (Guelph), Asena Paskaleva (Osnabrück), Joseph Pochedly (Chestnut Hill, MA),
Philip Powell (Sheffield), Robert Ranisch (Tübingen), Marcus Rockoff (Tübingen),
Diana Santos Fleischman (Portsmouth), Disa Sauter (Amsterdam), Tom Seyffert (Osnabrück),
Monique Smeets (Vlaardingen), Achim Stephan (Osnabrück), Ole Traupe (Kiel),
Joshua M. Tybur (Amsterdam), Linda Van Speybroeck (Gent), Jan Verplaetse (Gent),
Henrik Walter (Berlin), Sven Walter (Osnabrück), Hannah Weber (Osnabrück),
Sherri Widen (Chestnut Hill, MA), Wendy Wilutzky (Osnabrück)

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