Dr Sophie Russell
Academic and research departmentsSchool of Psychology, Social Emotions and Equality in Relations (SEER) research group, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
After completing my PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Kent I continued there as a Lecturer in Psychology. I started my role as Lecturer in Social Psychology at Surrey in January 2013.
University roles and responsibilities
- Final Year Tutor
My main research interests are in moralization and moral emotions, such as guilt, shame, disgust and anger. Previously, my research has focused on uncovering novel differences between anger and disgust, in moral and group contexts, focusing on the consequences of these emotions. Currently, my research projects involve applying these findings to understand attitudes and behaviours in the context of political engagement, perceptions of motherhood, food and nutrition, and prejudice interventions. In particular, I am interested in how moral emotions can be utilized to foster positive social relations.
- PSY1019 - Social Psychology with research methods 1 (module convenor and contributor)
- PSY3093/PSYM110 - Morality and Emotions (module convenor and contributor)
Courses I teach on
Peer-reviewed journal publications
Russell, P.S., Smith, D.M. Birtel, M.D., Hart, K. A & Golding, S. (in press). The Role of Emotions and Injunctive Norms in Breastfeeding: A systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Health Psychology Review.
Russell, P.S, & Knott, G. (in press). Encouraging Sustainable Insect-based Diets: The role of disgust, social influence, and moral concern in insect consumption. Food Quality and Preference.
AlSheddi, M., Russell, P.S., & Hegarty, P. (in press). Between Cultural Relativism and Liberal Ethnocentrism: What does Saudi Arabia Tell Us about Cultural Variation in Moral Identity and Prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Bartos, S.E., Russell, P.S., & Hegarty, P. (in press). Heroes against homophobia: Does elevation uniquely block homophobia by inhibiting disgust? Cognition and Emotion. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2020.1726292
Giner-Sorolla, R, & Russell, P.S. (2019). Not just disgust: Fear and anger attitudes also relate to intergroup dehumanization. Collabra. 5, 56. doi: http://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.211
AlSheddi, M., Russell, S. and Hegarty, P. (2019), How Does Culture Shape Our Moral Identity? Moral Foundations in Saudi Arabia and Britain. European Journal of Social Psychology. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2619
Chakroff, A., Russell, P.S., Piazza, J., & Young, L. (2017). From impure to harmful: Asymmetric expectations about immoral agents. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 201-209. doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.08.001
Russell P.S., & Piazza J. (2015). Consenting to counter-normative sexual acts: Differential effects of consent on anger and disgust as a function of transgressor or consenter. Cognition and Emotion, 29, 634-653. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.930420
Russell, P.S., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2013). Bodily-Moral Disgust: What It Is, How It Is Different from Anger and Why It Is an Unreasoned Emotion. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 328-351. doi: 10.1037/a0029319
Piazza, J., Russell, P. S., & Sousa, P. (2013). Moral emotions and the envisaging of mitigating circumstances for wrongdoing. Cognition & Emotion, 27, 707-722. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2012.736859
Russell, P.S., Piazza, J., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2013). CAD revisited: Effects of the Word “Moral” on the Moral Relevance of Disgust (and Other Emotions). Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 62-68. doi: 10.1177/1948550612442913
Russell, P.S., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2011). Moral anger, but not moral disgust, responds to intentionality. Emotion, 11, 233-240. doi:10.1037/a0022598
Russell, P.S., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2011). Social justifications for moral emotions: When reasons for disgust are less elaborated than for anger. Emotion, 11, 637-646. doi:10.1037/a0022600
Russell, P.S., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2011). Moral anger is more flexible than moral disgust. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 360-364. doi:10.1177/1948550610391678
Peer-reviewed journal publications (under review)
Russell, P.S., Birtel, M.D., Smith, D.M, Hart, K, & Newman, R. Infant Feeding and Internalized Stigma: The Role of Experienced Emotions. Revise and Resubmit.
Russell, P.S. The Role of Context and Maternal Characteristics in Breastfeeding Perceptions. Under Review.
McDowall, A., Carr, I., Russell, S., Glorney, E., Bharj, N., Coyle, A., & Nash, R. (2014). What works to prevent wrongdoing in police and other organisations? A rapid evidence assessment: A rapid evidence assessment (TBC). College of Policing.
Russell, P.S., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (July 2011). The dangers of disgust in the courtroom. The Jury Expert.
Abrams, D., Russell, P.S, Vauclair, M., Swift, H. (2011). Ageism in Europe: Findings from the European Social Survey. London: AgeUK.
Giner-Sorolla, R, & Russell, P.S. (2009). Anger, disgust and sexual crimes. In Horvath, M.A.H. & Brown, J.M. (Eds.), Rape: Challenging contemporary thinking (Chapter 3). Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
This qualitative Think Aloud study explored how Black women (n=32) processed information from a White or Black fashion magazine. Comments to the ‘White’ magazine were characterised by rejection, being critical of the media and ambivalence, whereas they responded to the ‘Black’ magazine with celebration, identification and a search for depth. Transcending these themes was their self identity of being a Black woman which was brought to the fore either by a sense of exclusion (White magazine) or engagement (Black magazine). Such an identity provides resilience against media thin ideals by minimising the processes of social comparison and internalisation.
Chapter. 3. Anger,. disgust. and. sexual. crimes. Roger GinerSorolla and Pascale S. Russell ... of tabloid newspapers that emotions such as anger, disgust or shock often arise when people disapprove of other people's sexual behaviours.
How does information about agents' past violations influence people's expectations about their future actions? We examined this question, with a focus on the contrast between past harmful and past impure actions. Participants' judgments reflected two independent influences: action consistency and expectation asymmetry. An expectation asymmetry was observed across seven studies, including two pilot studies and two supplemental studies: impure agents were judged as more likely to be harmful than harmful agents were judged likely to be impure. This expectation asymmetry is not due to an expectation that impure agents will be globally deviant, i.e., likely to commit all kinds of violations (Study 1), nor is it due to differences in the perceived wrongness or weirdness of harmful versus impure acts (Study 2). Study 3 demonstrated that this asymmetry is not attributable to the perceived harmfulness of impure actions; only impure agents, and not harmful agents, were expected to be more harmful than they were previously. These findings highlight an important asymmetry in the way people make predictions about future wrongdoing: immoral agents are expected to behave consistently, and are also expected to be harmful, regardless of their prior violation.
We propose that, when people judge moral situations, anger responds to the contextual cues of harm and intentionality. On the other hand, disgust responds uniquely to whether or not a bodily norm violation has occurred; its apparent response to harm and intent is entirely explained by the coactivation of anger. We manipulated intent, harm, and bodily norm violation (eating human flesh) within a vignette describing a scientific experiment. Participants then rated their anger, disgust, and moral judgment, as well as various appraisals. Anger responded independently of disgust to harm and intentionality, whereas disgust responded independently of anger only to whether or not the act violated the bodily norm of cannibalism. Theoretically relevant appraisals accounted for the effects of harm and intent on anger; however, appraisals of abnormality did not fully account for the effects of the manipulations on disgust. Our results show that anger and disgust are separately elicited by different cues in a moral situation.
In the present research, we tested the unreasoning disgust hypothesis: moral disgust, in particular in response to a violation of a bodily norm, is less likely than moral anger to be justified with cognitively elaborated reasons. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to explain why they felt anger and disgust toward pedophiles. Participants were more likely to invoke elaborated reasons, versus merely evaluative responses, when explaining their anger, versus disgust. Experiment 2 used a between-participants design; participants explained why they felt either anger or disgust toward seven groups that either violated a sexual or nonsexual norm. Again, elaborated reasons were less prevalent when explaining their disgust versus anger and, in particular, when explaining disgust toward a group that violated a sexual norm. Experiment 3 further established that these findings are due to a lower accessibility of elaborated reasons for bodily disgust, rather than inhibition in using them when provided. From these findings, it can be concluded that communicating external reasons for moral disgust at bodily violations is made more difficult due to the unavailability of those reasons to people.
With the recent upswing in research interest on the moral implications of disgust, there has been uncertainty about what kind of situations elicit moral disgust and whether disgust is a rational or irrational player in moral decision making. We first outline the benefits of distinguishing between bodily violations (e.g., sexual taboos, such as pedophilia and incest) and nonbodily violations (e.g., deception or betrayal) when examining moral disgust. We review findings from our lab and others’ showing that, although many existing studies do not control for anger when studying disgust, disgust at nonbodily violations is often associated with anger and hard to separate from it, while bodily violations more consistently predict disgust independently of anger. Building on this distinction, we present further empirical evidence that moral disgust, in the context of bodily violations, is a relatively primitively appraised moral emotion compared to others such as anger, and also that it is less flexible and less prone to external justifications. Our review and results underscore the need to distinguish between the different consequences of moral emotions.
Anger and disgust may have distinct roles in sexual morality; here, we tested hypotheses regarding the distinct foci, appraisals, and motivations of anger and disgust within the context of sexual offenses. We conducted four experiments in which we manipulated whether mutual consent (Studies 1-3) or desire (Study 4) was present or absent within a counter-normative sexual act. We found that anger is focused on the injustice of non-consensual sexual acts, and the transgressor of the injustice (Studies 1 and 3). Furthermore, the sexual nature of the act was not critical for the elicitation of anger-as anger also responded to unjust acts of violence (Study 3). By contrast, we hypothesised and found that disgust is focused on whether or not a person voluntarily engaged in, desired or consented to a counter-normative sexual act (Studies 2-4). Appraisals of abnormality and degradation were the primary appraisals of disgust, and the sexual nature of the act was a critical elicitor of disgust (Study 3). A final study ruled out victimisation as the mechanism of the effect of consent on disgust and indicated that the consenter's sexual desire was the mechanism (Study 4). Our results reveal that anger and disgust have differential roles in consent-related sexual offenses due to the distinct appraisals and foci of these emotions.
The research examines whether anger rather than disgust is more likely to be responsible for changes in moral judgment, after individuals consider potential circumstances. Participants first read a scenario that described a moral violation (harm or fairness vs. purity) and then gave their initial moral judgment and emotions toward the act. They were then asked to list things that could change their opinion and were provided with an opportunity to fill out the measures again, re-evaluating the scenario with these changes in mind. It was found that ratings of disgust did not change after generating potential circumstances; however, anger changed in differential ways for the two violation types. It was also found that anger but not disgust predicted change in moral judgment. These findings suggest that moral anger is a more flexible emotion than moral disgust because anger is more likely to respond to changes in circumstances.
Anger may be more responsive than disgust to mitigating circumstances in judgements of wrongdoing. We tested this hypothesis in two studies where we had participants envision circumstances that could serve to mitigate an otherwise wrongful act. In Study 1, participants provided moral judgements, and ratings of anger and disgust, to a number of transgressions involving either harm or bodily purity. They were then asked to imagine and report whether there might be any circumstances that would make it all right to perform the act. Across transgression type, and controlling for covariance between anger and disgust, levels of anger were found to negatively predict the envisioning of mitigating circumstances for wrongdoing, while disgust was unrelated. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings to less serious transgressions, using a continuous measure of mitigating circumstances, and demonstrated the impact of anger independent of deontological commitments. These findings highlight the differential relationship that anger and disgust have with the ability to envision mitigating factors.
The CAD model posits a mapping of contempt, anger, and disgust onto the moral codes of community, autonomy, and divinity, respectively. A recent study by Hutcherson and Gross posited moral disgust as the dominant other-condemning emotion across all three moral codes. However, the methodology used may have incidentally increased the relevance of disgust. In the current experiment, one condition repeated Hutcherson and Gross’s procedure, while in another condition, the authors added the word moral to three other emotions. Consistent with CAD, anger had the highest intensity ratings in response to autonomy violations, whereas ‘‘grossed out’’ was the dominant response to divinity violations. Furthermore, the adjective ‘‘moral’’ increased the relevance of anger, contempt, and fear in irrelevant domains, which suggests that the adjective moral increases any emotion’s moral relevance.