Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Natalie J. Shook

Committee Co-Chair

Amy Fiske

Committee Member

Amy Gontzler

Committee Member

Kevin Larkin

Committee Member

Joshua Woods


Shame and disgust are believed to be evolved psychological solutions to different adaptive challenges and, thus, independent emotions. Shame is thought to promote the maintenance of social hierarchies (Gilbert, 1997; Fessler, 2004), whereas disgust is believed to encourage disease avoidance (Curtis et al., 2004; Oaten et al., 2009). Although shame and disgust are often treated as orthogonal emotions, they share some important commonalities. Both shame and disgust involve bodily concerns, have been described as moral emotions, and encourage avoidance of social interaction. The purpose of the current studies was to investigate the relation between shame and disgust. More specifically, the current research examined whether shame is experienced, at least in part, as disgust toward the self. As shame is often confounded with guilt (Tangney et al., 2007), it was important to demonstrate the uniqueness of the relation between shame and disgust. Thus, guilt was included as a comparison variable. In Study 1, disgust sensitivity and fear of contamination were positively correlated with shame, but not guilt, even after controlling for guilt and negative affect. In Study 2, a disgust induction increased shame, but not guilt, for individuals who were sensitive to disgust. In Study 3, a disgust induction led to an unanticipated significant reduction in shame, whereas a purity induction did not affect shame. In Study 4, inducing disgust increased shame for those who were less sensitive to disgust, but not for those who were more sensitive to disgust. The current research provides initial evidence that there is a unique relation between shame and disgust. Across all 4 Studies, disgust sensitivity and shame propensity were positively correlated even after controlling for negative affect and guilt propensity. However, the results of the three experimental studies provide conflicting evidence as to the causal nature of this relation.