Disgust sensitivity predicts defensive responding to mortality salience.
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Disgust protects the physical self. The present authors suggest that disgust also contributes to the protection of the psychological self by fostering stronger defensive reactions to existential concerns. To test this idea, 3 studies examined the link between disgust sensitivity and defensive responses to mortality salience or "terror management" processes (Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997). Each study included an individual difference measure of disgust sensitivity, a manipulation of mortality salience, and a dependent measure of defensive responding. In Study 1, disgust sensitivity predicted increases in worldview defense in the mortality salience condition but not in the control condition. In Study 2, disgust sensitivity predicted increases in optimistic perceptions of the future in the mortality salience condition but not in the control condition. In Study 3, disgust sensitivity predicted reductions in delay discounting for those in the mortality salience condition such that those higher in disgust sensitivity discounted the future less. This pattern did not occur in the control condition. These findings highlight disgust sensitivity as a key to understanding reactions to mortality salience, and they support the view that disgust-related responses protect against both physical (e.g., noxious substances) and psychological threats.
author list (cited authors)
Kelley, N. J., Crowell, A. L., Tang, D., Harmon-Jones, E., & Schmeichel, B. J
complete list of authors
Kelley, Nicholas J||Crowell, Adrienne L||Tang, David||Harmon-Jones, Eddie||Schmeichel, Brandon J