Even Unpleasant Reminders That You Are an Animal Need Not Disgust You

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Abstract

Three studies (Ns = 200, 400, 400) tested the hypothesis that we humans feel disgust when reminded of our animal nature. Participants verbally rated their disgust reaction to pictures of humans engaged in various unpleasant actions. For pictures of events that present danger or suffering, accompanied by an explicit and vivid reminder that animals face the same situation, participants reported fear and sadness rather than disgust. For pictures of events that present a norm violation, an explicit animal reminder (relative to a human picture alone) did not lead to a consequent increment in disgust. For pictures of events that present a physically disgusting contamination, an explicit animal reminder (relative to a human picture alone) led to a decrement in disgust. Thus, not all unpleasant animal reminders are disgusting. Some disgusting things may remind us of our animal nature, but they are not disgusting because they do so.

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