Visual disgust elicitors produce an attentional blink independent of contextual and trait-level pathogen avoidance

Paola Perone*, D. Vaughn Becker, Joshua M. Tybur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Multiple studies report that disgust-eliciting stimuli are perceived as salient and subsequently capture selective attention. In the current study, we aimed to better understand the nature of temporal attentional biases toward disgust-eliciting stimuli and to investigate the extent to which these biases are sensitive to contextual and trait-level pathogen avoidance motives. Participants (N = 116) performed in an emotional attentional blink task in which task-irrelevant disgust-eliciting, fear-eliciting, or neutral images preceded a target by 200, 500, or 800 ms (i.e., lag 2, 5 and 8, respectively). They did so twice—once while not exposed to an odor and once while exposed to either an odor that elicited disgust or an odor that did not—and completed a measure of disgust sensitivity. Results indicate that disgust-eliciting visual stimuli produced a greater attentional blink than neutral visual stimuli at lag 2 and a greater attentional blink than fear-eliciting visual stimuli at both lag 2 and at lag 5. Neither the odor manipulations nor individual differences measures moderated this effect. We propose that visual attention is engaged for a longer period of time following disgust-eliciting stimuli because covert processes automatically initiate the evaluation of pathogen threats. The fact that state and trait pathogen avoidance do not influence this temporal attentional bias suggests that early attentional processing of pathogen cues is initiated independent from the context in which such cues are perceived. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-880
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • attentional bias
  • behavioral immune system
  • disgust
  • emotional attentional blink
  • olfaction


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