Contamination aversion and repeated exposure to disgusting stimuli

Thomas G. Adams, Jeffrey L. Willems, Ana J. Bridges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Recent research has highlighted the central role of disgust in the etiology and maintenance of contamination aversion (CA). Data would also suggest that, although amendable to the treatment of choice for CA (exposure and response prevention [ERP]), disgust is resistant to habituation. However, with regard to CA, it is not yet known if disgust's resistance to habituation is an artifact of the emotion or the disorder. Specifically, research has not yet indicated if severity of CA moderates the effect of ERP on disgust. Utilizing an undergraduate convenience sample (n = 33), the present study compared emotional responding (disgust and fear) with repeated exposure to a disgusting contamination-relevant stimulus between participants who are high in contamination aversion (HCA; n = 17) and low in contamination aversion (LCA; n = 16). Results indicated that, habituation of disgust was slower than fear within the HCA group but not the LCA group. Contrasts revealed that the decay of fear across trials was faster for HCA participants when compared with LCA participants, although decay of disgust was similar between groups. These results indicate that habituation of disgust is slower than fear when elevated CA is present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Contamination
  • Disgust
  • Exposure
  • Fear
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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