Disgust, Creatureliness, and the Accessibility of Death Related Thoughts

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From an existential terror management theory perspective, disgusting stimuli are threatening to human beings because they make salient people's vulnerability to death. Two studies were designed to assess this proposition by measuring implicit death‐related ideation after individuals were presented with stimuli that either were or were not disgusting, under conditions in which the similarities of humans to other animals or the uniquely human aspects of people were made salient. In Study 1, in which rather extreme disgust‐eliciting pictures were used, disgusting stimuli led to higher death‐thought accessibility than neutral pictures regardless of whether or not participants had previously been primed with similarities between humans and other animals. In Study 2, in which milder verbal disgust‐eliciting stimuli were used, disgusting stimuli led to heightened death‐thought accessibility only when human‐animal similarities were first primed. Implications for the regulation and humanization of the human body and its functions are discussed.

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European Journal of Social Psychology, v. 37, issue 3, p. 494-507.