The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending over $100,000 studying disgust, hypothesizing that all bullying behavior begins with feelings of revulsion.
Researchers at Columbia University want to see if they can “successfully regulate” disgust emotions in teens in order to stop bullying.
“Whether it’s being the victim, being the perpetrator, or having to watch this upsetting cycle of peer rejection and victimization, few adolescents are unaffected by bullying’s harmful impact,” a grant for the project states. “This effect can last long past adolescence, as both being the bully and being the victim are linked to the development of both short- and long-term anxiety and depressive disorders.”
The researchers believe disgust leads to “homophobic, sexist, and racist attitudes,” and hope to determine when the emotion enters the “moral toolbox.”
“At some point during development, individuals begin to consider actions and behaviors that do not involve others being directly harmed to be morally wrong (e.g. homosexuality),” the grant said. “In adults, this type of non-harm based moral condemnation is often underpaid by disgust, an emotion that has been linked to increased homophobic, sexist, and racist attitudes. However, when disgust begins to enter the moral toolbox and how it informs moral condemnation and social rejection within childhood and adolescence remains unknown.”