If you see a suffering animal with an open wound you’ll probably feel both disgust and empathy. Arielle Duhaime-Ross looked into the sources of both.
But with conflicting signals from empathy and disgust flooding our brains, how does one emotion prevail over the other? “We are full of conflicting desires, that is the nature of human beings,” Curtis observes. “At any one time we have to weigh different motives and make a decision what to do based on circumstances, so people may simultaneously want to comfort a sick animal and recoil from its open wound.” What you choose to do, she says, “depends on the strength of your disgust and the strength of your desire to care.”
That’s one reason people who want to hate X or Xs tend to work up a lot of disgust at X or Xs. That, in turn, is a reason to be wary of the habit of working up disgust at people, whether individuals or groups.