Developing Disgust: Theory, Measurement, and Application

  • Joshua RottmanEmail author
  • Jasmine DeJesus
  • Heather Greenebaum


Disgust is a complex and uncharacteristic emotion. Despite being frequently classified as a “basic” emotion, disgust has a wide range of elicitors, many competing functional theories, and a protracted developmental trajectory. This chapter first reviews several ultimate explanations of disgust, highlighting how scholars historically privileged symbolic explanations, while most contemporary researchers believe disgust to be an adaptive pathogen avoidance mechanism. After a brief discussion of techniques for measuring disgust, we describe the current knowledge of the development of disgust, with special attention to the ways in which disgust influences food choice and contributes to contamination sensitivity. While certain aspects of disgust may be universal, its emergence is largely enculturated and its expression is highly variable. We conclude by discussing the ways in which the study of disgust carries practical implications for the diagnosis and treatment of psychopathologies, for nutrition, and for the implementation of public health initiatives. Although scholarly interest in disgust has greatly increased during recent years, there is still much room for further exploration of this enigmatic emotion.


Disgust Development Childhood Avoidance Disease Emotion Food 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua Rottman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jasmine DeJesus
    • 2
  • Heather Greenebaum
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFranklin and Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  3. 3.School of Social Policy and PracticeUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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