The evolution of disgust : theoretical and empirical explorations



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This dissertation consists of four manuscripts on the emotion of disgust, all of which are published or in press. These papers report studies linking the emotion of disgust with areas of psychology to which it has seldom been connected. Paper 1 reports findings linking disgust with stress and satiation, providing support for an a priori hypothesis generated on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis of how these inputs should affect disease avoidance behavior. Paper 2 reports the first findings linking disgust with mating strategy, two important areas of psychology that have theoretical relevance for one another but whose connection has yet to be explored. Paper 3 presents the first solid empirical evidence that disgust sensitivity predicts food neophobia. This work also found a theoretically interesting, but unpredicted, connection between food neophobia and mating strategy. Paper 4 pans back, presenting a broader evolutionary framework on the emotions and providing a variety of novel empirical hypotheses for both disgust and sexual arousal. The dissertation then concludes by presenting important questions for future research and describing experiments currently underway to answer questions emerging from this line of research. As a whole, this dissertation and research program aim to a) build bridges between disgust and other domains of psychology such as stress and human mating, b) make methodological contributions to research on disgust, and c) present an evolutionary framework that carries conceptual and empirical implications for disgust and for a broad array of other emotions.