ARE HABITUAL SUPPRESSORS BETTER AT LIMITING THE DEGREE TO WHICH THEIR FEELINGS OF DISGUST ALTER MORAL JUDGMENTS?

Open Access
Author:
Zhuang, Dian
Area of Honors:
Psychology
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Karen Gasper, Thesis Supervisor
  • Cynthia Huang Pollock, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • suppression
  • emotions
  • moral judgments
Abstract:
People who suppress their feelings do so in order to not experience them. However, the literature is unclear as to whether suppression lessens or increases the impact of these suppressed feelings on judgment. To examine this issue, I tested whether and how individual differences in suppression may alter the degree to which feelings of disgust would enhance the severity of people’s moral judgments. If suppression lessens the impact of disgust feeling, then people who are high in suppression should be less likely to make harsh moral judgments when they feel disgusted compare to those low in suppression (hypothesis 1). Second, if suppression results in people being ironically influenced by the feelings that they are trying to suppress, then people who are high in suppression should make harsher judgments when they feel disgusted compared to those who are low in suppression (hypothesis 2). In the experiment, 165 participants completed a measure of habitual suppression. Then, they read and imagined either five disgust sentences (experiment condition) or five neutral sentences (control condition). Finally, they completed a measure of moral judgment. The data indicated that neither disgust nor habitual suppression predicted morality. However, in support of the prediction that suppression would lessen the impact of disgust on moral judgments, disgust and suppression tended to interact. Specifically, when disgusted, people who chronically suppressed were less likely than those who tended not to suppress to harshly evaluate the moral dilemmas. The findings imply that habitual suppression could be effective in not only reducing felt feelings, but also not letting feelings influence people’s judgments.