Disgust sensitivity mediates the effects of race on contamination aversion

Jamilah R. George, Christopher Pittenger, Benjamin Kelmendi, Jeffrey M. Lohr, Thomas G. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


African Americans report greater contamination aversion than European Americans. Few studies have attempted to identify potential causes for this elevated contamination aversion, though existing research and theory suggests this may be partly due to concomitant heightened disgust sensitivity. The present study examined the relations between race, disgust sensitivity, and contamination aversion among African and European Americans. A convenience sample of four-hundred and twenty-nine participants completed the Disgust Scale – Revised (DS-R) and the Padua Inventory – Revised (PI-R). African Americans endorsed greater disgust sensitivity (DS- R total) – particularly on the core and contamination subscales of the DS-R – and scored higher on the contamination subscale of the PI-R (but not on other subscales) than European Americans. Mediational analyses revealed a significant total effect of race on contamination aversion and a significant indirect effect of race on contamination aversion through disgust sensitivity; the direct effect of race on contamination aversion remained significant even after controlling for race. These findings suggest that elevated contamination aversions among African Americans may be partly due to elevated disgust sensitivity. If confirmed with larger and clinical samples, and more robust experimental methods, this relationship may prove to have implications for the treatment of contamination-based obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) among African Americans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-76
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • African American
  • Contamination
  • Disgust
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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