Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



First Adviser

Gill, Michael

Other advisers/committee members

Packer, Dominic; Burke, Chistopher; Caskie, Grace


Disappointment and contempt are important moral emotions that have the potential to influence social behavior. However, these emotions and their behavioral consequences have yet to be explored in the context of evaluative beliefs about humanity. One purpose of this dissertation was to begin filling this gap in the literature by examining the psychological mechanisms that give rise to feelings of disappointment in and contempt for humanity, and the social behavior they influence. Disappointment was hypothesized to be associated with AI-discrepancy beliefs (e.g., humanity is not compassionate enough), as they imply the absence of a desired outcome or expectation. Contempt was hypothesized to be associated with AO-discrepancy beliefs (e.g., humanity is cruel), as they imply humanity fails to meet minimal moral standards. Causal attributions (Weiner, 2006), identification with all of humanity (IWAH; McFarland et al., 2012), and implicit theories of personality (IT; Dweck, Chu, & Hong, 1995) were predicted to moderate these relationships. Finally, disappointment was predicted to promote prosocial behavior, while contempt was predicted to promote social avoidance. These predictions were tested in a serious of four studies. Proposed models of disappointment and contempt were tested in Study 1. Studies 2-4 tested the effects of discrepancies and proposed moderators experimentally. The results were mixed. The models of disappointment and contempt were not supported. Evidence was found suggesting AO-discrepancies can evoke both feelings of disappointment (Studies 2 and 3) and contempt for humanity (Studies 2, 3 and 4), while AI-discrepancies appear only to evoke feelings of disappointment (Studies 1, 2, 3, and 4). At times, IWAH might2moderate the effects of discrepancies on disappointment (Studies 1 and 2) and contempt (Studies 2 and 3). The proposed moderating effects of causal attributions and IT were largely unsupported. Finally, evidence was found suggesting disappointment and contempt might have unique effects on prosocial behavior and social avoidance, such that contempt seems to promote social avoidance, which might be influenced by IWAH, while disappointment is less likely to influence social behavior. The results of this work contribute to the literature and our understanding of beliefs about humanity, group identity, social emotions, causal attributions, and discrepancy theory.

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