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The emotional profiling of disgust-eliciting stimuli: Evidence for primary and complex disgusts

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 18:15 authored by Sarah Marzillier, Graham Davey
The present paper reports the results of two studies that used a hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis to categorise the emotional profiles of disgust-evoking stimuli. Study 1 revealed three clusters of stimuli corresponding to: (1) nondisgust or "disgust-irrelevant" items, (2) "primary" disgust items containing a range of disgust-relevant items characterised by their ability to elicit fear of oral incorporation and their animal origin; and (3) "complex" disgusts, consisting mainly of behaviours or activities that are considered to be socially or morally unacceptable. The emotional profiles of these three categories also differed significantly, with "primary" and "complex" disgusts showing higher levels of disgust than the "disgust-irrelevant" items. However, whereas the "primary" disgusts showed no evidence of elevated ratings on negative emotion scales other than disgust, the "complex" disgusts revealed high scores on all negative emotions in the profile (sadness, contempt, fear, and anger). Study 2 confirmed both the cluster analysis and emotional profile findings from Study 1, and also indicated that males and females did not differ significantly either on the cluster solution itself or the shape of the emotional profile. Female participants, however, did respond more intensively across all relevant negative emotions in the profiles than did males. The advantages of using emotional profiling as a means of categorising disgust stimuli are discussed, as are the implications of these findings for an understanding of the functions of disgust.


Publication status

  • Published


Cognition and Emotion




Taylor & Francis





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Department affiliated with

  • Psychology Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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