You don't meet my standards
You would never have done that, you are morally superior and
you feel contempt for the pathetic person.
- Feeling morally superior to an offender.
- Disapproving of anotherís action.
Root: from Latin contemptus, past participle of contemnere, to despise.
The words appalled, despise, distain, indignation, and reproach are
approximate synonyms for contempt. We snub someone when we dismiss them
with contempt. Contempt is similar to
disgust, but pertains to people and their behavior rather than to chemically
There are some data to suggest that the concepts and labels of contempt,
anger, and disgust are related to each other. These emotions arise when moral
codes of a community are violated.
Upward contempt allows a person of lower status to claim superiority, at
least along one attribute. It is a form of rebellion, or a way to
humiliation or defeat. It is generally a false display rather than a genuinely
Benefits and Dangers of Contempt
Contempt is a declaration of greater status or
power, and can serve as a reward for maintaining high
stature. However, it is often counterfeit; people who are uncertain of their
stature may show contempt in an effort to raise their image. The pretentious look
down their noses at the homeless, the truly compassionate help the homeless.
It becomes dangerous if you humiliate the
person you feel contempt for.
Because contempt declares your superiority, it is often a somewhat enjoyable
Guilt, shame, and contempt are each based on meeting expectations:
- Guilt: I did not meet your moral standards and
- Shame: I did not meet my own standards of
- Contempt: you did not meet my moral standards and expectations.
Power and Distance
We are most likely to feel contempt for people who are distant from us and
low in stature. If they are close to us we feel compassion, and if they are
powerful, we feel fear or envy.
The facial expression of contempt communicates your disapproval.
|The facial expression of contempt has these distinctive
- Chin is raised, making it easier to look down your nose at the offender,
- The lip corner is tightened and slightly raised on one side of the face,
- A slight smile can show enjoyment
- This expression is often called a sneer.
Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions,
by Richard S.
Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus
Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman
The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins
Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, by Daniel Goleman
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values, by
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi
Scalar Ratings of Contempt Expressions, by David Matsumoto, San
Francisco State University
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt,
Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness,
Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience,
Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach,
Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification,
Gratitude, Anger, Remorse,
power, dominance, stature, relationships