Disgust and Contamination Concerns: the Mediating Role of Harm Avoidance and Incompleteness

Abstract

Although the proneness to experience disgust shows a strong relationship with contamination and washing concerns in OCD, it still is not clear what mechanisms explain why disgust fuels contamination and washing rituals. We report two studies on university student samples (n = 233, n = 211) where the mediating role of beliefs related to overestimation of threat and harm and to not-just-right experiences and incompleteness is tested. The results showed that not-just-right experiences and levels of incompleteness partially mediated the total effect of disgust on contamination fear. Threat/responsibility beliefs and harm avoidance did not significantly mediate this relationship. The results suggest that sensitivity to sensory phenomena may partly explain why disgust leads to contamination and washing rituals and that the sensation part accompanying disgust experiences may play a role in contamination fear.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Results for disgust propensity and sensitivity as subfactors of disgust proneness are available upon request. They reveal the exact same pattern as presented for disgust proneness.

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Correspondence to Ragnar P. Ólafsson.

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Ólafsson, R.P., Emmelkamp, P.M.G., Ólason, D.Þ. et al. Disgust and Contamination Concerns: the Mediating Role of Harm Avoidance and Incompleteness. J Cogn Ther 13, 251–270 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41811-020-00076-5

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Keywords

  • Disgust
  • Contamination fear
  • OCD
  • Harm avoidance
  • Incompleteness
  • Mediation