The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Disgust Sensitivity

Frontiers in Psychology 11 (2021)
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There have been few tests of whether exposure to naturalistic or experimental disease-threat inductions alter disgust sensitivity, although it has been hypothesized that this should occur as part of disgust’s disease avoidance function. In the current study, we asked Macquarie university students to complete measures of disgust sensitivity, perceived vulnerability to disease, hand hygiene behavior and impulsivity, during Australia’s Covid-19 pandemic self-quarantine period, in March/April 2020. These data were then compared to earlier Macquarie university, and other local, and overseas student cohorts, to determine if disgust sensitivity and the other measures, were different in the lockdown sample. The most consistent finding in the lockdown sample was of higher core disgust sensitivity, with some evidence of greater germ aversion on the PVD, and an increase in hand and food-related hygiene, but with little change in impulsivity. The consistency with which greater core disgust sensitivity was observed, suggests exposure to a highly naturalistic disease threat is a plausible cause. Greater disgust sensitivity may have several functional benefits and may arise implicitly from the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.



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