Disgust domains in the prediction of contamination fear

Bunmi O. Olatunji, Craig N. Sawchuk, Jeffrey M. Lohr, Peter J. De Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown a relationship between the emotion of disgust and the fear of contamination. Heightened sensitivity to disgust and increased concerns over contamination has been observed in various disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and specific phobias. However, there is a paucity of research identifying the specific domains of disgust that contribute to contamination fear. The present study soughts to determine which domains of disgust elicitors reliably predict scores on a measure of OCD contamination obsessions and washing compulsions. We further conducted exploratory analyses that examined differences in disgust sensitivity among individuals classified as high and low in contamination fear. Three hundred and twenty-three undergraduate participants completed two measures of disgust sensitivity (Disgust Scale; Disgust Emotion Scale) and a measure of contamination fear (Padua inventory, contamination obsessions and washing compulsions subscale). Stepwise multiple regression analyses indicated that contamination fear was best predicted by seven different disgust domains, thereby suggesting that contamination fear is accounted for by generalized, rather than domain-specific, disgust elicitors. The categories of disgust that predicted contamination fear appeared to have an underlying commonality of threat of contagion. The relationship between fear of contamination and disgust sensitivity was more pronounced for animal reminder disgust elicitors as opposed to core disgust elicitors. Results also showed that individuals classified as high in contamination fear scored significantly higher than the low contamination fear group on all disgust domains. Clinical and research implications regarding the interrelationships between fear, disgust, and the fear of contamination are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Contamination
  • Disgust
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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