Emotional responding to fearful and disgusting stimuli in specific phobics

Craig N. Sawchuk, Jeffrey M. Lohr, David H. Westendorf, Suzanne A. Meunier, David F. Tolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Individuals with small animal and blood-injection-injury (BII) phobias respond to phobia-relevant stimuli with both fear and disgust. However, recent studies suggest that fear is the dominant emotional response in animal phobics whereas disgust is the primary emotional response in BII phobics. The present study examined emotional responding toward pictures of spiders, surgical procedures, and two categories of general disgust elicitors (rotting food and body products) among analogue spider phobics, BII phobics, and nonphobics. Dominant emotional responses to phobia-relevant stimuli clearly differentiated the groups, as spider phobics were more likely to be classified as primarily fearful when rating pictures of spiders (74%), whereas BII phobics were more likely to be classified as primarily disgusted when rating pictures of surgical procedures (78%). Discriminant function analyses revealed that disgust ratings, but not fear ratings, of the phobic pictures were significant predictors of phobic group membership. Both phobic groups were characterized by elevated disgust sensitivity toward video and pictorial general disgust elicitors. Implications and suggestions for continued research examining fearful and disgusting stimuli in specific phobia are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1046
Number of pages16
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2002


  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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