Tom Kupfer


Room: MF- C580

Personal webpage


Before starting my fellowship at VU Amsterdam, I conducted Post-doctoral research at the University of Surrey. For my PhD at the University of Kent, I developed and tested a social signaling account of moral disgust and a reputation management account of moral contagion. I completed a master’s degree in Evolutionary Psychology at Brunel University and my first degree was in Biological Sciences from the University of Birmingham. Before starting my academic career I was a high school biology teacher for several years.

Marie Curie Fellowship

In 2018 I was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship for the project How the Expression of Moral Emotions Affects Third Party Punishment, in collaboration with Joshua M. Tybur. The research aims to combine methods used in emotion psychology and behavioral economics to address the puzzle of third party punishment. That is, how are third party punishers compensated for the costs of punishing norm violators? The hypothesis is that the emotion expressions that typically accompany or precede punishment (anger and disgust) glean reputational benefits for punishers by advertising expressers’ intentions and motives. This research can help us to understand how moral and cooperative norms are enforced, and why people are sometimes motivated to excessively punish, such as those who participate in ‘cancel culture’.

The broader goals of my research are to identify the properties of emotions involved in morality (especially disgust, anger and jealousy) and to reveal how these emotions interact with other psychological processes, such as intention inference and reputation management, to produce moral judgements, condemnation and norm enforcement. I am particularly interested in understanding purity norms, but I distinguish between pathogen purity norms and sexual purity norms.

Research Interests

  • Moral emotions
  • Moral judgement
  • Gender relations and sexism
  • Pathogen and ectoparasite defense
  • Trypophobia


Google Scholar

Recent publications

TR Kupfer & R Giner-Sorolla (2021) Reputation management as an alternative explanation for the “contagiousness” of immorality. Evolution and Human Behavior 42 (2), 130-139
AS Macdonald, MA Chambers, R La Ragione, K Wyles, M Poyade & ... (2021) Addressing Infection Risk in Veterinary Practice through the Innovative Application of Interactive 3D Animation Methods. The Design Journal 24 (1), 51-72
P Gul, T Kupfer, P Elmas, EA Kose, T Koskun & N Keesmekers (2021) Disease avoidance motives trade-off against social motives, especially mate-seeking, to predict social distancing: Evidence from the Covid-19 pandemic. PsyArXiv
P Gul & T Kupfer (2021) Support for female honor norms as ideological mate-guarding: Sexual jealousy and reproductive strategy shape support for female honor norms. PsyArXiv
TR Kupfer, Y Inbar & JM Tybur (2020) Reexamining the role of intent in moral judgements of purity violations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 91, 104043
JM Tybur, D Lieberman, L Fan, TR Kupfer & RE de Vries (2020) Behavioral Immune Trade-Offs: Interpersonal Value Relaxes Social Pathogen Avoidance. Psychological science 31 (10), 1211-1221
A Macdonald, M Chambers, R La Ragione, K Wyles, M Poyade, A Wales & ... (2020) Using novel visualisation methods to combat infection risk during clinical practices. Lab4Living 2, 139-141
F Watson, M Chambers, K Wyles, M Poyade, S Noble, T Kupfer, A Wales & ... (2020) Combatting infection risk in veterinary practice through novel animation methods.
M Dong (2020) Being good to look good: Moral character is positively associated with hypocrisy among reputation-seeking individuals.
AK Karinen, C Molho, TR Kupfer & JM Tybur (2019) Disgust sensitivity and opposition to immigration: Does contact avoidance or resistance to foreign norms explain the relationship?. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 84, 103817
TR Kupfer, KJ Wyles, F Watson, RM La Ragione, MA Chambers & ... (2019) Determinants of hand hygiene behaviour based on the Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour. Journal of Infection Prevention 20 (5), 232-237
P Gul & TR Kupfer (2019) Benevolent sexism and mate preferences: Why do women prefer benevolent men despite recognizing that they can be undermining?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 45 (1), 146-161
TR Kupfer (2018) Why are injuries disgusting? Comparing pathogen avoidance and empathy accounts.. Emotion 18 (7), 959
TR Kupfer & DMT Fessler (2018) Ectoparasite defence in humans: relationships to pathogen avoidance and clinical implications. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373 …
TR Kupfer & ATD Le (2018) Disgusting clusters: trypophobia as an overgeneralised disease avoidance response. Cognition and Emotion 32 (4), 729-741
T Kupfer (2018) A reputation management and signalling account of moral disgust and moral contagion. University of Kent, University of Kent
R Giner-Sorolla, T Kupfer & J Sabo (2018) What makes moral disgust special? An integrative functional review. Advances in experimental social psychology 57, 223-289
TR Kupfer & JM Tybur (2017) Pathogen disgust and interpersonal personality. Personality and Individual Differences 116, 379-384
T Kupfer & R Giner-Sorolla (2017) Reputation management explains the apparent contagiousness of immorality (manuscript under review). PsyArXiv
TR Kupfer & R Giner-Sorolla (2017) Communicating moral motives: The social signaling function of disgust. Social Psychological and Personality Science 8 (6), 632-640

View full list of publications on Google Scholar