Do bitter beverages elicit physical disgust which influencing our moral processing
Can moral processing be influenced by gustatory disgust or pleasure? We studied if taste perception had an effect on moral judgement. A bitter tasting beverage was hypothesised to produce more physical disgust hence, harsher moral condemnation compared to the control and sweet tasting beverage condition. Moral disgust was hypothesised to be more prominent for individuals with a conservative view. This was evident in the bitter and neutral condition but not the sweet. 479 volunteered participant was assigned to one of 3 taste condition (bitter, sweet or neutral) and had to drink the beverage twice whilst rating moral transgression. Results found that the sweet tasting beverage elicited harsher moral judgement (M=73.42), SD(14.35) compared to the other condition. To conclude, the results suggest that gustatory disgust does not have a significant effect on moral processing The interaction effect for political orientation and taste condition was not significant.
Hume believed that individuals find things morally wrong when it produces physical disgust. He also believes that emotion is the foundation for moral judgement. Moll, de Oliveira-Souza and Eslinger (2003) found a neural correlation between emotions and moral judgement. They found that when participants assessed moral statements compared to factual statements, the brain area responsible for emotion was triggered when the participants made a moral judgement. Sanfey et al (2003) found brain activity in the area associated with emotion when participant was angry.
Haidt and Schnall (2008) found that when they sprayed a bin with a fart spray to induce physical disgust, participants assessed vignettes harsher compared to the other participants without the disgusting spray. This illustrates that there is a link between physical disgust and moral judgement. Our hypothesis is that taste perception influence moral judgement hence, the disgusting drink will cause harsher moral judgement compared to neutral or sweet beverages.
Haidt and Graham (2007) surveyed conservatives and found that they believed that if someone did something distasteful, it will be useful in determining if the act was wrong or right. Liberals that were surveyed didn’t agree with this view. We hypothesised as a result that political orientation influences moral processing. Conservatives are more sensitive to disgust thus are more likely to be harsher in moral judgement compared to liberals.
We can find a link between emotion and moral judgement also physical disgust and moral judgement. However, there is a lack of evidence for the effect of gustatory disgust impact on our moral judgement besides Eskine et al. original study “Gustatory influences on moral judgement”
The ‘replication crisis’ derived from unable to replicate studies successfully. By replicating a study you can test the validity of the research. Some psychologist is altering research outcome resulting in higher numbers of false negatives and positives. Furthermore, fraud has also increased. The statistic shows that 2% of scientist had falsified research. There are multiple factors which result in this such as the pressure to publish new work.
Four-hundred and seventy-nine students volunteered to participate in the experiment. Each individual was randomly assigned 1 of the 3 beverages conditions (sweet, bitter and neutral) using the Qualtric survey. Before the experiment started they were told it was voluntary and that they didn’t have to participate. Participants were given an ingredient form and a pen to check for any allergies. Participant form which states the purpose of the experiment and a consent form to sign if they want to do the experiment. They were told that the purpose of the study is whether motor movements involved in drinking influences our judgment on others whilst reading about them. Hence, telling them to drink the allocated beverage throughout the moral judgement task so that the movement could be imitated. Participants in the bitter conditions were given Swedish bitter, those in neutral condition received water and those in sweet got Morrison’s cherry drink. Two 1-teaspoon of the allocated drinks was given to the participants, one in the beginning of the moral judgement task and one near the halfway so that the taste could remain. They were all told to take the drink in one swift motion just like ” taking a shot”. After the experiment was done the participants received a debrief form which told the true nature of the experiment. The design was 3*2 between subject factorial design ANOVA as we are testing 3 beverage condition and two political orientation (the Independent variables ) The moral judgement was the Dependent variable.
The total number of participants was 479 however, 101 of the participants was excluded as they either guessed the hypothesis or political orientation was neither right or left.
Table 1: Number of participants in each condition.
Beverage condition (1=neutral, 2=sweet, 3=bitter)
Political orientation? (left, right, or other)
We hypothesised that Conservatives would judge the moral transgression more harshly as they are more prone to sensitivity compared to Liberals. We believed that in the bitter condition, Conservatives would be harsher on moral judgement. We made a 3 (beverage: neutral, sweet, bitter) X 2 (Political orientation: left or right) between subjects ANOVA to test political orientation effects on your moral judgement within the beverage condition. Throughout all our statistical tests we are using the alpha level of .05. The main effect for Beverage condition yielded an F ratio of F(2,372)=1.323, P=.268, implying there was no significant difference thus, accepting the null hypothesis. The sweet condition(M=73.42), SD(14.35) was harsher in moral judgement compared the bitter condition ( M=71.17), SD(14.79)and Neutral condition) (M= 68.39), SD(13.44). The main effect for political orientation yielded an F ration of F(1, 372)=0.758, p = .385 which illustrates that the effect of political orientation was not significant. Conservative (M=72.64, SD=12.96) and Liberals (M=70.73, SD=14.52) The interaction effect was F(2,372)=0.762, P=0.467 Thus, not significant.
Taste perception and political orientation effect on moral judgement.
This graph shows both Independent variables effect on moral judgement.
We wanted to find out whether taste disgust influences moral judgment. We hypothesised that the bitter beverage (compared to the sweet and neutral beverages) would result in harsher moral judgement. Furthermore, Our second hypothesis was if one’s political orientation can affect moral judgement and specifically if influenced by the beverage. The results found that in the sweet condition, participants had harsher moral judgement compared to bitter condition thus, our hypothesis is incorrect. The effect was not significant. Furthermore, conservatives in the bitter condition were harsher in moral judgment. However, in the sweet condition, liberals had harsher moral judgement. Nevertheless, result shows that it was not significant
Our experiment goes further than past studies as most psychologists didn’t look for a link between gustatory disgust and moral judgement except Eskine et al. Majority of psychologists such as Moll, de Oliveira-Souza and Eslinger (2003) found a neural link between emotion and moral judgement.
Our study supports George Lakeoff’s theory of conceptual metaphors. He described his theory as experiencing something in another. we can see this in our research as morality could derive from feelings, a sensory experience which is important in moral processing.
Possible confounding variables such as boredom and tiredness. Participant became more careless from fatigue or write anything “what the hell effect”. Another confound is what emotional state the participants were in before the experiment as it can affect judgement.
One of the limitation was that in the sweet condition, we did not use minute maid berry punch which Eskine et al used. This can be easily improved by using the exact stimuli for future research thus, increasing reliability. Additionally, the participants were all undergraduates hence, results cannot be generalised to the rest of the population. There was a ‘replication crisis’ as results are not as robust as we assumed making it difficult to replicate. Furthermore, individual differences should be taken account. Large-scale replication is time-consuming and in most cases impracticable.
To conclude, it appears that gustatory disgust doesn’t lead to harsher moral judgement and although we hypothesised that conservatives would be harsher in moral judgement. That does not seem to be true. Our moral processing is effected by multiple factors that it is hard to pinpoint it down to one. There is still a lack of evidence to support the theory that gustatory disgust leads to moral judgement. Evidence supports that emotion can influence moral disgust. Perhaps, we can research if bitter, sweet and neutral foods elicit any emotion that can influence moral judgement (Schnall, Haidt et al 2008)
Reflective Account 200 words
Before we started working on the presentation, we all divided the sections into parts so that we were all contributing to the group. We came in during our free time so that we could organise the order of the presentation and help each other. Furthermore, throughout Eskine replication experiment, we all brought in 5 participants and did the experiment. We all worked as a group to analyse the data. My group worked well together as they all pulled their own weight
When we were doing the presentation, we had too much information on our PowerPoint that others found it harder to digest. This also resulted in us just reading from our papers and going over-time. We were the first group to present which resulted in some of us not projecting loud enough for everyone to hear. Furthermore, We also didn’t present the main effect of our IV’s and the interactions. We also didn’t explain the ‘replication crisis’ or what our DV. We also didn’t include how we excluded some participants. On the whole, our presentation went swiftly and the feedback we received helped us add what we needed for our assignment. It was a good learning experience
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