The bitter truth about morality: virtue, not vice, makes a bland beverage taste nice

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41159. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041159. Epub 2012 Jul 18.


To demonstrate that sensory and emotional states play an important role in moral processing, previous research has induced physical disgust in various sensory modalities (visual, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory modalities, among others) and measured its effects on moral judgment. To further assess the strength of the connection between embodied states and morality, we investigated whether the directionality of the effect could be reversed by exposing participants to different types of moral events prior to rating the same neutral tasting beverage. As expected, reading about moral transgressions, moral virtues, or control events resulted in inducing gustatory disgust, delight, or neutral taste experiences, respectively. Results are discussed in terms of the relation between embodied cognition and processing abstract conceptual representations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beverages
  • Cognition
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Perception
  • Taste*
  • Virtues
  • Young Adult