Is disgust prepared? A preliminary examination in young children

Richard Stevenson*, Megan Oaten, Trevor I. Case, Betty Repacholi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Children may be prepared to associate adult disgust reactions with adult disgust elicitors. To test this, three-year olds (and adults) were presented with two images and an emotive vocalization. The images and vocalizations included stimuli adults found disgusting, fear-provoking, and sad. On one set of trials, the main dependent variable (DV) was time spent looking at each image and on a second set of repeat trials the DV was knowledge of image-sound matches. Fear and disgust vocalizations were both more effective at orienting a child's attention to adult fear and disgust images, than sad vocalizations. Parental disgust sensitivity was associated with this effect, moderated by explicit matching knowledge. Matching knowledge was poor in children and good in adults. These data suggest that in children, fear and disgust vocalizations may both promote attention to stimuli that adults find disgusting and/or fear-provoking, suggesting that "preparedness" may not be wholly emotion-specific.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)326-347
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of General Psychology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2014


    • adaptive behavior
    • emotion
    • evolutionary psychology


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