Science University Research Symposium (SURS)

Publication Date

Winter 12-1-2022


Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

SURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Tim Schoenfeld

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


The present study investigates the relationship between germ aversion and avoidant decision making. Individuals in the general population who rate highly in germ-aversion and disgust sensitivity may act maladaptively in order to avoid potentially anxiety inducing scenarios. If encountered, these scenarios will cause an increase in physiological arousal and a suppression of salivatory cortisol in the individual. We hypothesize that this stress response biases decision making in an avoidant manner. Participants for this study, consisting of 60 undergraduate students at Belmont University, started by taking a perceived vulnerability to disease scale. Then, those in the experimental group performed a task in which they were exposed to both disgusting and neutral images on a computer while the control group was exposed to only neutral images. Finally, all participants completed an everyday decision-making task. Heart rate, skin-conductance, and salivatory cortisol levels were measured during the tasks. We predict that participants who rate high in germ aversion will show greater physiological arousal when exposed to the disgusting images and will thus show more biased decision making. Further, we hypothesize that those in the experimental group who do not rate highly in germ aversion will not have significantly biased decision making.



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