Pathogen disgust predicts stigmatization of individuals with mental health conditions

Eugene J. Dawydiak, Holly E. Stafford, Judith L. Stevenson, Benedict C. Jones

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Both avoidance of individuals with cues of infectious illnesses and stigmatization of other types of individual (e.g., obese individuals) are hypothesized to reflect infectious disease avoidance. However, direct empirical tests of this hypothesis have been somewhat rare. Consequently, we tested for possible relationships between subscales of the Three Domain Disgust Scale and stigmatization of individuals with one of three mental health conditions (schizophrenia, skin-picking disorder, or sexual sadism disorder) in a sample of 117 participants. Scores on the pathogen disgust subscale of the Three Domain Disgust Scale were positively correlated with stigmatization of these mental health conditions. By contrast, scores on the sexual and moral disgust subscales of the Three Domain Disgust Scale were not significantly related to the stigmatization of mental health conditions. When analyzed separately, there were significant positive effects of pathogen disgust for skin picking and sexual sadism, but not schizophrenia. These results potentially implicate overgeneralization of infectious disease avoidance in the stigmatization of individuals with mental health conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-63
Number of pages4
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020


  • disgust
  • pathogens
  • stereotypes
  • stigma

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