It is generally assumed that disgust is accompanied by increased activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). However, empirical support for the role of PNS in disgust is scarce. This study tested whether (i) activation of the PNS is indeed involved in disgust and (ii) disgust-induced autonomic activation is especially pronounced in individuals with high disgust propensity or enhanced disgust sensitivity. Participants (N= 60) viewed a 5. min disgust-inducing video clip. Participants showed increased parasympathetic activity of both the cardiac and the digestive components of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), together with increased sympathetic activation of the cardiac system. ANS responses were independent of subjective disgust and individuals' habitual disgust propensity or sensitivity. Results support the hypothesis that PNS activation is involved in disgust. The absence of a relationship between subjective and physiological indices of disgust indicates that both types of responses reflect independent phenomena.

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Biological Psychology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

de Jong, P., van Overveld, M., & Peters, M. (2011). Sympathetic and parasympathetic responses to a core disgust video clip as a function of disgust propensity and disgust sensitivity. Biological Psychology, 88(2-3), 174–179. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.07.009