Ideology and Moral Disgust: Their Influence on Water Reuse

Grant Winner

  • John Lewis, PhD – Center for Psychological Studies


  • Karen Grosby, MEd – Center for Psychological Studies


Award Winners

The aim of this current project is to assess how liberal and conservative ideologies rely on respective moral foundations that influence willingness to use recycled water. Recycled water projects focus on using technological advances to treat wastewater, (for example, water from bathrooms, showers or water fountains) and then recycle it back into water systems. Understanding how and why people will decide to utilize recycled water and the underlying psychological mechanisms behind their intentions become necessary as technological advances in water treatment become more available. Haidt et al. (2009) found evidence that liberals' views on morality are based primarily on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, whereas conservatives' views on morality show a more even distribution across the foundations, including those endorsed by liberals, as well as ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity. Schnall et al. (2008) found a causal relationship between people's feelings of disgust and their moral convictions. People often rely on moral reasoning when they do not have an intuitive response or when their intuition is conflicting. Disgust is a central emotion involved in the public reluctance to use recycled water and studies have shown there is a relationship between individuals' feelings of disgust and their moral foundations. As part of a larger study on how decision-making influences people's willingness to use recycled water, questionnaires and experimental manipulations will be administered in a laboratory setting to determine individuals' implicit behaviors towards water reuse, their intentions to use recycled water, and their actual behaviors towards water reuse. Based on the literature discussed, we propose that the relationship between ideology and moral disgust influences individuals' willingness to use recycled water. We also propose that some individuals with liberal ideology will have intention to use recycled water, but will not want or be able to follow through with their intentions when in a real life circumstance.