Disgust is a fascinating emotion. Its elicitors are a puzzle: it makes sense that we are disgusted by things that can contaminate our food, but why does this food-related emotion extend itself so deeply into our social world, so that people feel disgusted by certain ethnic groups (or by racism), by homosexuality (or by homophobia), and by a variety of social and moral violations that donít involve anything physically contaminating?
Disgust appears to play a role in moral judgment, moral conflict, and ethno-political violence. (For the best work on disgust and politics, see David Pizarro.) Disgust has clinical ramifications, for it seems to be involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder and in a variety of phobias. (For the best work on clinical implications, see Bunmi Olatunji.) Disgust even has religious ramifications, for it appears to be part of the psychological foundation of culturally widespread ideas of purity and pollution. Many religions (e.g., Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism) have extensive rules for regulating human bodily processes and keeping them separated from sacred objects and practices. Disgust appears to provide part of the structure of these rules and practices.
The Disgust Scale is a self-report personality scale that was developed by Jonathan Haidt, Clark McCauley, and Paul Rozin as a general tool for the study of disgust. It is used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust, and to examine the relationships among different kinds of disgust. This page contains information on the emotion of disgust and on the Disgust Scale. Please feel free to print any of the papers on this page, and to use the Disgust Scale for research, education, or other non-commercial purposes. If you obtain any interesting findings with the Disgust Scale, we would appreciate hearing about them, and we would be happy to post a link to you or your work on this page.
To take the disgust scale online and see your score and how it compares to others, please go to www.YourMorals.org and register. Then, on the "explore your morals" page, take the "disgust scale"
I) To learn about the emotion of disgust:
--The most comprehensive article on disgust is: Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (2008). Disgust. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions, 3rd ed. (pp. 757-776). New York: Guilford Press. Request Paper
--Here is a shorter article that gives an overview of our theory of disgust, with special attention to moral disgust: Haidt, J., Rozin, P., McCauley, C., & Imada, S . (1997). Body, psyche, and culture: The relationship of disgust to morality. Psychology and Developing Societies, 9, 107-131. Request Paper
--A beautifully written and thought provoking book about disgust, giving a view that differs from ours: Miller, W. I. (1997). The anatomy of disgust. Cambridge MA, Harvard U. Press.
--Here is a recent commentary we wrote in Science magazine, on an article by Chapman et al (2009) showing that moral disgust has an oral component.
II) To learn about the Disgust Scale:
-- The original research article presenting the disgust scale and its validation is: Haidt, J., McCauley, C., & Rozin, P. (1994) . Individual differences in sensitivity to disgust: A scale sampling seven domains of disgust elicitors. Personality and Individual Differences, 16, 701-713. Request Paper
--A behavioral validation of the disgust scale (showing that it predicts actual willingness to do disgusting things) is: Rozin, P., Haidt, J., McCauley, C., Dunlop, L., & Ashmore, M . (1999). Individual differences in disgust sensitivity: Comparisons and evaluations of paper-and-pencil versus behavioral measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 330-351. Request Paper
--Olatunji et al. (2007) performed a variety of analyses on the factor structure and performance of specific items on the original 32 item Disgust Scale. They suggested that 7 items be cut (including all 4 sexual disgust items), and that the number of subscales be reduced from 8 to 3. This reanalysis prompted the creation of the DS-R, which we created jointly with Bunmi Olatunji. Olatunji's reanalysis is: Olatunji, B. O., Williams, N. L., Tolin, D. F., Sawchuck, C. N., Abramowitz, J. S., Lohr, J. M., et al. (2007). The disgust scale: Item analysis, factor structure, and suggestions for refinement. Psychological Assessment. 19, 281-297.
--Van Overveld et al. (2011) published the most complete examination of the psychometric properties of the DS-R, finding support for Olatunji et al.'s decision to re-organize the scale into 3 subscales. Using the Dutch version of the DS-R they found Cronbach's alphas of .87 for the whole scale, .78 for core, .78 for animal reminder, and .54 for contamination.
--A more recent behavioral validation study, showing how the 3 subscales of the DS-R predict differential willingness to do disgusting things, is here: Olatunji, B. O., Haidt, J., McKay, D., David, B., (2008). Core, animal reminder, and contamination disgust: Three kinds of disgust with distinct personality, behavioral, physiological, and clinical correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 42. 1243-1259. Request article
--If you cite the DS-R in an academic paper, please cite it as "The DS-R (Haidt, McCauley & Rozin, 1994, modified by Olatunji et al. 2007)"
III) To print copies of the Disgust Scale:
We recommend that all researchers use the DS-R (the Disgust Scale - Revised). It is the original Disgust Scale with 4 improvements.
1. The items have been reduced from 32 to 25, based on Olatunji et al.'s reanalysis of which items were contributing to total score (see above).
2. The number of subscales has been reduced from the original 8 (most of which had low reliability) to just the three subscales that show up consistently in factor analyses: Core disgust (including food, animals, and body products), Animal-reminder disgust (death and envelope violations) and contamination disgust (concerns about interpersonal transmission of essences). All three subscales now have alphas above .70 (with the old binary/trinary scales), and are likely to be even higher with the new 5 point response scales. This change was also a result of Olatunji et al.'s analyses.
3. The scales have been changed (from true-false on part 1 and 3-point ratings on part 2) so that all items are now rated on 5-point scales (0-4).
4. The DS-R includes two "catch" questions which allow you to identify and remove people who are either not paying attention or not taking the task seriously.
To score the DS-R: General instructions are at the bottom of the printable scale (see above). In addition, as a researcher, you may want to:
1. Enter all data into this SPSS template file, with variable names defined.
2. Drop all participants who did not answer 3 or 4 on question 12 ("I would rather eat a piece of fruit than a piece of paper "), and who did not answer 0 or 1 on question 16 ("You see a person eating an apple with a knife and fork.")
3. Calculate subscale scores. You can use this SPSS syntax file to do so. If you don't use spss, you can open the file in any text editor, and then see which variables go into which subscale scores.
Note: We don't yet have any articles published that use the DS-R with the 5 point response scales as described on this page. Both of the Olatunji articles given above used just a 25 item subset of the original DS, so all items are scored on a 0-1 scale, and we always use average scores, not total scores, because averages are not damaged by missing data. But here is a Word doc that gives mean scores, by sex, for the 34,000 Americans who took the DS-R at YourMorals.org using the 5 point (0-4) scale.
Here is the original 32 item Disgust Scale, first published in 1994. This version has 8 subscales with four items per subscale. It was designed to be usable by widely varying populations, so the response scale was kept simple: true/false on the first half, and a 3-point disgust rating scale on the second half.† Scoring instructions for computing overall score are printed at the bottom of the form. To calculate subscale scores just take every eighth item. The items run in this order: food, animals, body products, sex, envelope violations, death, hygiene, and magical thinking. These 8 subscales do not have sufficiently high reliability to be considered distinct individual difference measures; they were included for exploratory purposes, to make sure that we covered the full range of disgust elicitors, and to explore differences among populations (e.g., nurses, people with OCD, women versus men, etc.).
The original Disgust Scale was translated into several languages. Here are translations into:
Swedish (by Fredrik Bjorklund)
Dutch (by Batja Mesquita).
French (contact Sandrine Gil: sandrine. sandrine.gil at univ-poitiers.fr)
Spanish (by Miguel Fullana: Miguel.Fullana at iop.kcl.ac.uk)
Italian (by Francesco Mancini: mancini at apc.it)
The DS-R has been translated into these languages. (And note that the DS-R is just the DS with the 4 sex items dropped, along with 3 others, plus we added two "catch" questions that are not essential)
Danish (by Frederik Hjorth, frederikhjorth at gmail dot com)
Dutch (by Mark van Overveld)
Persian (by Mani Rashidi: gkshams2000 at yahoo dot com)
Spanish (by R.M. Valiente & B. Sandín, contact rmvalien at psi dot uned.es)
Jonathan Haidt: jhaidt at stern.nyu.edu
Clark (Rick) McCauley: cmccaule at brynmawr.edu
Paul Rozin: rozin at psych.upenn.edu
Return to Haidt's homepage