World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Aim Disgust had been implicated the aetiology of various psychopathologies. Maladaptive disgust responses are also tenacious against exposure-based interventions. Similarly, laboratory studies indicate that conditioned disgust is relatively insensitive to Conditioned Stimulus (CS) -only extinction procedures. Given that the primary adaptive function of disgust is to motivate avoidance of contaminations that are invisible to the naked eye, mere visual presentation of unreinforced disgust eliciting stimuli might not be sufficient to correct a previously acquired threat value of the CS+. More safety information may be needed convince the individual that the CS+ is now safe. Method Study 1 (N = 67) used a conditioning paradigm with pictures of neutral food items as the CS+/CS- and a woman vomiting as the disgust-relevant US. Before the start of the conventional CS-only extinction procedure, half of the participants carried out a behavioural task (BAT) allowing actual contact with the CS+ food item. Study 2 (N = 133) was designed to replicate the findings of Study 1 and to test whether providing additional safety information about the CS+ in the form of a model eating the CS+ would similarly contribute to the unlearning of disgust. Results Consistent predictions, Study 1 showed that participants who were exposed to the BAT prior to extinction showed a stronger reduction in conditioned disgust than those who were not. Similarly, Study 2 showed that participants showed facilitated extinction when safety information was conveyed by allowing actual contact with the CS+ (BAT). This beneficial effect was still evident at one-week follow up. A similar promotion of extinction was absent when the safety information was conveyed via observing an actress eating the food items representing the CS+. Conclusion Together these findings corroborate the view that the mere visual presentation of unreinforced disgust eliciting stimuli might not be sufficient to neutralize acquired disgust and emphasize the importance of providing individuals with a compelling experience that the CS+ is in fact safe (i.e., free of invisible threats). The findings provide helpful starting points for further research aimed at finding mechanisms in understanding disgust-based psychopathology, and ways to further refine clinical interventions targeted at minimizing maladaptive disgust.
EvenementstitelWorld Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies
LocatieMelbourne , Australia