Contempt is characterized by looking down on, feeling cold toward, and having the tendency to distance or derogate a person or group perceived to violate important standards.
Contempt is an affective phenomenon that is increasingly understood to powerfully shape behavior. First, a backdrop for contempt is offered by describing the first major research findings on contempt. Second, contempt as an emotional reaction is considered. Third, emerging work on dispositional contempt – or contempt at the personality level – is reviewed. Finally, attention turns to outstanding questions about contempt.
First Findings on Contempt
The first major research findings on contempt in some way involved its expression. Building on Darwin’s (1872/1998) account of contempt as universally expressed, Ekman and Friesen (1986) identified the “unilateral lip curl,” or one-sided lip tightening, as its pancultural signal. Although studies addressing this...
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