Generalizability of the effects of exposure in disgust

Steven D Tsao, Fordham University


Habituation of the fear response through the use of exposure, and the generalization of this habituation, is well documented in the existing empirical literature. However, the effect of exposure in disgust, and the generalizability of these effects, is absent for this basic emotion. The current study examined the effects of exposure on disgust and how these effects generalize within the body products domain of disgust. A sample of 38 undergraduate psychology students at Fordham University was divided into two groups. The vomit-blood (VB) group was exposed to a realistic approximation of vomit and allowed to habituate to this stimulus while the blood-vomit (BV) group was allowed to habituate to a realistic approximation of blood. Following habituation, each group was exposed to the other stimulus for a five-minute period. Continuous physiological monitoring of heart rate, respiration rate, peripheral surface temperature, and muscle tension at the levator labii and lateral deltoid muscles was collected during exposure as well as self-reported ratings of disgust (in SUDs). According to self-report, habituation was observed for both groups, but the results of this study only moderately supported generalization of this effect due to differences in the disgust-eliciting power of the stimuli. In addition, only muscle tension at the levator labii and heart rate in the VB group demonstrated significant changes that could be interpreted as habituation. No overall activation of the parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system was observed during disgust responding. Consistent with previous literature, muscle tension at the levator labii appeared to be a unique indicator of disgust responding. Implications of these findings, potential biases, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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Recommended Citation

Tsao, Steven D, "Generalizability of the effects of exposure in disgust" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169405.