Defensive Emotions and Evaluative Judgements: Sensitivity to Anger and Fear Predicts Moral Judgements, Whereas Sensitivity to Disgust Predicts Aesthetic Judgements

Alejandro Dorado, Martin Skov, Jaume Rosselló, Marcos Nadal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Aesthetic and moral evaluations engage appetitive and defensive emotions. While the role played by pleasure in positive aesthetic and moral judgements has been extensively researched, little is known about how defensive emotions influence negative aesthetic and moral judgements. Specifically, it is unknown which defensive emotions such judgements tap into, and whether both kinds of judgement share a common emotional root. Here, we investigated how participants' individual sensitivity to disgust, fear, anger and sadness predicted subjective judgements of aesthetic and moral stimuli. Bayesian modelling revealed that participants who were more sensitive to anger and fear found conventional and moral transgressions more wrong. In contrast, participants who were more sensitive to disgust disliked asymmetrical geometric patterns and untidy rooms more. These findings suggest that aesthetic and moral evaluations engage multiple defensive emotions, not just disgust, and that they may rely on different defensive emotions as part of their computational mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 15 August 2022.


  • Aesthetic judgements
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Individual differences
  • Moral judgements
  • Sadness

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