Dr. David Pizarro
Emotions & Morality

A topic that's been written about for centuries by philosophers and great thinkers alike, morality has been the source of grand discussions. Yale-educated and Cornell-based, Dr. David Pizarro believes our emotions play an intricate role in the manner in which we think and make decisions. He defines human morality as the way "people make judgments about what's right or wrong." However, how can our perceptions of what's right or wrong differ so vastly amongst us as a species? Dr. Pizarro has been investigating this very notion, amongst other inquiries, for almost two decades. And, interestingly, he's found clues in our emotions.

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From his past studies, he posits that we all have a certain level of "disgust sensitivity" that may provide a glimpse into our political orientation, aversion for change (i.e. traditionalism), and degree to which one we're open to experience. He's found that individuals who are more easily disgusted tend to be more politically conservative, whereas individuals who are less easily disgusted tended to be politically liberal. Dr. Pizarro explains that people that were easily disgusted scored higher in traditionalism, meaning they agreed more with the old-ways-are-better-than-the-new type of mentality.

"At the heart of what disgust is, is a risk assessment of how something might hurt or harm you."

Fascinating, right? The way this relates to morality and the way we perceive the world around us is that emotions, like disgust, can shape certain kinds of beliefs, including ones that revolve in the moral realm. Our aversion to change and inclination towards traditionalism might have an effect on the way we perceive out-group members for example. How willing are we at accepting people who are from a different culture or look differently than us if you have a sensitivity to this sort of aversion? We discuss the evolutionary implications of disgust and delve into the reasons behind it. 

Hear more from my conversation with Dr. David Pizarro. 

(Recorded June 2021.)

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Listen Below

Ep 02 - Dr. David Pizarro
00:00 / 32:53

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