Disgust Study

I worked as an undergraduate researcher on an independent research project about the paradox of hedonic disgust with Professor Nicholas Christenfeld at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). This project lasted from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017.

I created an exploratory survey to test how various traits predict people’s habit to see out disgusting experiences, like watching viral pimple-popping videos. The paradox is that disgust should create an aversive behavior to the stimuli, but some people seem to actually enjoy watching these disgusting videos.

I conducted literature searches on disgust, its predictors, and measurements of its predictors. Some examples of the traits I examined were disgust propensity and sensitivity, anxiety, and empathy. I conducted two surveys with over 400 participants in total through Qualtrics and I analyzed the data with R.

This exploratory study showed that although there is not an “optimal” level of disgust that people find appealing, goal-driven videos were shown to be less disgusting and more appealing than not goal-driven videos. These results imply that people’s level of disgust to disgusting stimuli may be lessened by goal-driven factors and people’s level of appeal to disgusting stimuli may be increased by goal-driven factors. This knowledge may be helpful finding new methods in reducing disgust and increase appeal in homophobic mindsets or even prevent self-disgust that causes depression.

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