Can the emotion of disgust be harnessed to promote hand hygiene? Experimental and field-based tests

Renata Porzig-Drummond, Richard Stevenson*, Trevor I. Case, Megan Oaten

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    78 Citations (Scopus)


    Two studies carried out in Sydney, Australia explored whether inducing disgust may be a useful addition to hand-hygiene interventions. Experiment 1 employed a novel laboratory measure of hand hygiene, and tested whether a brief (3-min) video-based intervention using disgust/education, improved hand hygiene relative to education alone and a control condition. On test, a week later, the disgust intervention significantly exceeded the education and control condition combined, although the effect size was modest. Experiment 2 examined the generality of this effect in a field study. During a baseline period, soap and paper towel use in a series of washrooms were covertly monitored. This was followed by an intervention period, in which two washrooms received disgust/education-based posters and a further two, educational posters, exhorting participants to wash their hands. A follow-up period, after the posters were removed, was also monitored. The disgust-based intervention was significantly better at promoting hand hygiene. These findings suggest that even brief disgust-based interventions may be successful and that these can be tested and developed under laboratory conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1006-1012
    Number of pages7
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


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