(492 kB) H Ying, H Wang, BC Jones & LM DeBruine (2014). Pathogen disgust predicts men's perception of facial disgust. European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association in Bristol, UK. April 2014.

While influential models of the psychology of disgust identify separate dimensions, such as moral, sexual and pathogen disgust, research on the perception of facial expressions often treats disgust as reflecting a unitary concept. Here, we investigated the relationship between the perception of disgust in faces and individual differences in sensitivity to moral, sexual and pathogen disgust. Participants classified the emotional expression of composite faces showing varying levels of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Participants also completed the Three Domains of Disgust Scale (Tybur et al., 2009). Only pathogen disgust predicted facial disgust perception. However, this main effect of pathogen disgust was qualified by an interaction with sex of participant, whereby men, but not women, with higher levels of pathogen disgust were more likely to classify faces as disgusted. In men, this effect of pathogen disgust also interacted with judgment accuracy, such that pathogen disgust better predicted the percentage of faces that were correctly, rather than incorrectly, judged as disgusted. These results show that men with greater concern about pathogens are more sensitive to the facial expression of disgust, suggesting that perception of disgust from faces may be driven by inferences about others' pathogen disgust, at least in men.

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