Disgust mediates the relation between attentional shifting and contamination aversion

T. G. Adams, J. M. Lohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Aversion of contaminants is important for several psychiatric disorders, particularly contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Recent theoretical models have proposed that the ability to control one's attention, especially when processing affectively laden information, is important in the etiology of pathological anxiety. The present study tested the relations between attentional control, affective arousal, and behavioral approach toward contaminants (contamination aversion). Methods: Thirty-three non-selected (undergraduate university students) participants completed a measure of trait attentional control and three behavioral approach tasks, which measured emotional reactivity and approach toward contaminants. Results: Preliminary analyses showed that poorer attentional control and greater affective arousal predicted less behavioral approach toward contaminants. Modeling of direct and indirect relations showed that poor attentional shifting ability and greater subjective disgust were related to less behavioral approach. Moreover, disgust fully mediated the relation between attentional shifting and behavioral approach. Limitations: The present study used a convenience sample, which is not representative of the general population or individuals with OCD; therefore, research using clinical samples is necessary before making clinical interpretations. Moreover, the present study utilized subjective measures of attentional control and affective arousal. The use of objective measures of attention and affective arousal would provide a more valid test of the role of attentional control in contamination aversion. Conclusions: These findings suggest that attentional shifting abilities may serve as a vulnerability to affective arousal/regulation and behavioral avoidance of contaminants, but the latter relation only operated indirectly via disgust. These findings have clear implications for the etiology of contamination-related OCD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-980
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Anxiety
  • Attentional control
  • Aversion
  • Contamination
  • Disgust
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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