Pathogen disgust sensitivity: Individual differences in pathogen perception or pathogen avoidance?

Florian van Leeuwen*, Bastian Jaeger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
128 Downloads (Pure)


The emotion disgust motivates the avoidance of pathogens and contaminants. Individuals differ in their tendency to experience disgust and this is referred to as pathogen disgust sensitivity. Yet, it remains unclear which differences in psychological processes are captured by pathogen disgust sensitivity. We tested two hypotheses about how the information processing structure underlying pathogen avoidance might give rise to individual differences in pathogen disgust sensitivity. Participants (n = 998) rated the perceived health of individuals with or without facial blemishes and indicated how comfortable they would feel about having physical contact with them. For participants with high disgust sensitivity, facial blemishes were more indicative of poor health and perceived health was more strongly related to comfort with physical contact. These findings suggest that pathogen disgust sensitivity reflects individual differences in the tendency to interpret stimuli as an infection risk and the weight given to estimated infection risk when deciding who should be approached or avoided.voidance, rather than just an increased sensitivity to pathogen cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-403
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Approach-avoidance motivations
  • Behavioral immune system
  • Disgust
  • Disgust sensitivity
  • Individual differences


Dive into the research topics of 'Pathogen disgust sensitivity: Individual differences in pathogen perception or pathogen avoidance?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this