Pathogen disgust and interpersonal personality

Tom R. Kupfer*, Joshua M. Tybur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The behavioral immune system includes motivational systems for avoiding contact with pathogens, including those transmitted by other people. Motivations to avoid others may depend not only on the perceived risk of infection but also on perceived benefits of social interaction. Based on this idea, we hypothesise that more agreeable people may experience less disgust towards other people, but not necessarily less disgust towards other pathogen sources. Using two existing samples, we tested whether agreeableness and other personality factors related more to disgust towards human than non-human pathogen cues. As predicted, agreeableness negatively correlated with disgust towards human pathogen cues but not with disgust towards non-human pathogen cues. In contrast, extraversion had no relation with disgust towards human or non-human pathogen cues. These findings suggest that disgust felt towards others may reflect a trade-off between pathogen avoidance and the preferred quality of interpersonal relationships, but not the preferred quantity of relationships. Implications of these findings for understanding the relation between disgust and interpersonal attitudes and behaviours are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-384
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date18 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme680002


    • Agreeableness
    • Disgust
    • Extraversion
    • Pathogens
    • Personality


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