Pizarro to talk politics, morals, disgust



Disgust is more than just a character in Disney and Pixar’s new movie, “Inside Out.”

In line with Week Four’s theme, “Irrationality,” David A. Pizarro, associate professor of psychology at Cornell University, will talk about the influence disgust has on judgment of moral responsibilities at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Pizarro’s primary research has been in moral judgment, the effects of emotion on judgment and the overlap between these two. In his lab in Cornell’s psychology department, he has studied a wide range of topics involving emotion, judgment and behavior. In today’s lecture, he is specifically focusing on disgust and how it influences the way humans think in the moral and political domains.

“There are people who are more disgusted as a personality trait and have more conservative views when it comes to morality and politics,” he said.

As part of his research, Pizarro uses foul odor (or something to that equivalent) to disgust his participants. This, he noticed, would temporarily shift their attitudes on morality and politics.

Pizarro describes disgust as “an emotion that is characterised by a strong sense of aversion and withdrawal. It is a strong avoidance emotion that kicks in whenever there is something in the environment that may damage us because of the circumstances and disease.”

From a very young age, Pizarro said he was interested in the question of morality.

“The fundamental question that drives me wild is why is there so much disagreement about moral questions,” he said.

In 2012, Pizarro gave a TED Talk titled “The Strange Politics of Disgust,” where he highlighted his ongoing research, looking at whether or not people’s political views are influenced during times of disease, like a flu epidemic.

With more than 10 years of research on this subject matter, Pizarro said his work is evolving.

“One of the questions that always comes up is, ‘When should emotions influence our judgment?’ And while the answer is obvious sometimes, the answer gets trickier when the question deals with the influence our moral judgments,” Pizarro said. “The questions of what divides our nation, gay marriage and sexuality are also up for talks. I am looking to talking about that, too.”