The feel of contempt is individual and based upon someone’s personal morals. Someone can feel contemptuous towards another person when they feel they have the higher moral ground such as if the person is doing something that they morally disapprove of. The feeling of contempt often accompanies the inclination to raise the chin, which is where the term “looking down your nose” comes from. Contempt could be felt towards the show off, someone that does not hold the door open for a person in a wheelchair (if not anger), the absent person who is always late, the person that spits on the pavement (if not disgust), or even the person that did not apparently have to work hard to achieve success. Contempt can also be aimed internally, with self contempt being triggered by thoughts such as “I should have done better,” “I forgot again,” “I knew I was right the first time,” “Should’ve guessed this was going to happen,” and “Serves me right for keeping my hopes up,” for example.
Contempt and disgust are closely related, with the key differences being disgust is experienced through taste, smell, sight or touch and contempt is experienced by feeling superior towards others or through self-disdain.
Matsumoto & Hwang sum up Larazus’s (1991) trigger for contempt being “immoral actions”, and the function of contempt being to assert superiority (Matsumoto & Hwang, 2012).
Read more about emotions in True Lies.