Specificity of Disgust in the Prediction of Behavioral Avoidance of Possible Contaminants
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Individual differences related to disgust have been implicated in a host of psychiatric disorders, including obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Theory suggests that individual differences in disgust propensity and, perhaps, sensitivity, make individuals more prone to experience disgust when confronted with potential contaminants, which then motivates avoidance of possible contaminants or safety behaviors aimed at removing contaminants when avoidance is not possible. However, no study has concurrently examined the relations of disgust propensity and state disgust with avoidance of contaminant-based stimuli. The present study recruited a sample of 90 undergraduate participants and utilized a multimodal assessment (including self-reported disgust and a behavioral approach task using possible contaminants) to examine the direct and indirect effects of disgust propensity, disgust sensitivity, trait anxiety, state disgust, and state anxiety on avoidance of the stimuli. Results suggested disgust propensity was the only individual difference variable to significantly correlate with avoidance. Although state disgust and state anxiety were significantly correlated with disgust propensity and avoidance, only state disgust significantly mediated the effects of disgust propensity on avoidance. These findings suggest that disgust propensity and state disgust may lead to avoidance of possible contaminants, thereby perpetuating contamination fears and aversions. As such, these results have implications for the etiology of contamination-based OCD. Additional research with clinical samples and more objective measures of state emotional experiences are needed.
KeywordsDisgust Anxiety Contamination Avoidance Obsessive–compulsive disorder
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Rebecca L. Campbell, Teah-Marie Bynion, Jennifer Forte, Matthew T. Feldner and Thomas G. Adams Jr. declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individuals participating in the study.
This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
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