Specificity of Disgust in the Prediction of Behavioral Avoidance of Possible Contaminants

Rebecca L. Campbell, Teah Marie Bynion, Jennifer Forte, Matthew T. Feldner, Thomas G. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Individual differences related to disgust have been implicated in a host of psychiatric disorders, including obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Theory suggests that individual differences in disgust propensity and, perhaps, sensitivity, make individuals more prone to experience disgust when confronted with potential contaminants, which then motivates avoidance of possible contaminants or safety behaviors aimed at removing contaminants when avoidance is not possible. However, no study has concurrently examined the relations of disgust propensity and state disgust with avoidance of contaminant-based stimuli. The present study recruited a sample of 90 undergraduate participants and utilized a multimodal assessment (including self-reported disgust and a behavioral approach task using possible contaminants) to examine the direct and indirect effects of disgust propensity, disgust sensitivity, trait anxiety, state disgust, and state anxiety on avoidance of the stimuli. Results suggested disgust propensity was the only individual difference variable to significantly correlate with avoidance. Although state disgust and state anxiety were significantly correlated with disgust propensity and avoidance, only state disgust significantly mediated the effects of disgust propensity on avoidance. These findings suggest that disgust propensity and state disgust may lead to avoidance of possible contaminants, thereby perpetuating contamination fears and aversions. As such, these results have implications for the etiology of contamination-based OCD. Additional research with clinical samples and more objective measures of state emotional experiences are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-392
Number of pages7
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance
  • Contamination
  • Disgust
  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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