Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 101–113

The disgust-promotes-disposal effect

  • Seunghee Han
  • Jennifer S. Lerner
  • Richard Zeckhauser

DOI: 10.1007/s11166-012-9139-3

Cite this article as:
Han, S., Lerner, J.S. & Zeckhauser, R. J Risk Uncertain (2012) 44: 101. doi:10.1007/s11166-012-9139-3


Individuals tend toward status quo bias: preferring existing options over new ones. There is a countervailing phenomenon: Humans naturally dispose of objects that disgust them, such as foul-smelling food. But what if the source of disgust is independent of the object? We induced disgust via a film clip to see if participants would trade away an item (a box of unidentified office supplies) for a new item (alternative unidentified box). Such “incidental disgust” strongly countered status quo bias. Disgusted people exchanged their present possession 51% of the time compared to 32% for people in a neutral state. Thus, disgust promotes disposal. A second experiment tested whether a warning about this tendency would diminish it. It did not. These results indicate a robust disgust-promotes-disposal effect. Because these studies presented real choices with tangible rewards, their findings have implications for everyday choices and raise caution about the effectiveness of warnings about biases.


Disgust Status quo bias Decision making Disposal Emotion 

JEL Classifications

D03 C93 D81 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seunghee Han
    • 1
  • Jennifer S. Lerner
    • 2
  • Richard Zeckhauser
    • 3
  1. 1.Chung-Ang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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