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Disgust has been proposed as a possible factor in phobic acquisition and maintenance, particularly in spider phobia. Cognitions and processes concerning disgust were examined in a series of studies with spider phobics, other specific phobics and nonphobic controls. Beliefs about the disgusting nature of their phobic objects were present in phobics but did not contribute to an attentional bias. Measures of global disgust sensitivity were not closely linked to the phobic fear response. The disgust associated with phobic objects appears to have different constituents to the disgust associated with objects that do not evoke the phobic response. In the light of evidence presented here, it seems unlikely that disgust plays a central role in the aetiology or maintenance of spider phobia in particular and specific phobias in general. It is proposed that when stimuli normally associated with disgust become the focus of phobic anxiety the disgust response may be amplified.

Original publication




Journal article


Behaviour Research and Therapy

Publication Date





877 - 893