The basic emotion of disgust has probably been one of the least studied of the emotions—in part, it would seem, because its role in a number of emotional disorders has been minimised if not overlooked altogether. Fortunately, this situation has begun to change significantly in the past few years and we predict a bright future ahead for disgust research especially in relation to psychopathology. We hope that we have demonstrated that the SPAARS approach to disgust and the disgust-based complex emotions such as guilt and shame has much to offer. We hope too that we have drawn enough evidence together to suggest that certain phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders may be disgust-based rather than fear-based. If true, then current diagnostic and classification systems have incorrectly labelled them as anxiety disorders. We have noted also that the failure to distinguish fear from disgust may have led to mistaken assumptions in a number of information-processing studies of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
We hope therefore that the future will hold great things for disgust and that disgust will be given the position that it rightly deserves! In this respect, we are heartened by the fact that in the first edition of this book, the chapter on disgust was by far the most speculative. Most of the predictions we made for the role of disgust have been tested in the intervening period and they have received good support. Therefore, in this time-honoured tradition of fruitful speculation about the potential function of disgust, we would like to offer a further speculation that could also be tested empirically. The speculation is this: One of the issues that needs to be addressed carefully in research on disgust is why female levels of disgust and disgust sensitivity are typically significantly higher than male levels. Although we are not great fans of some of the excesses of evolutionary psychology (e.g., Pinker, 1997), one possibility for the higher female levels may not relate to food-based derivations of disgust, but instead may refer to the contrasting female and male roles in sexuality, conception, and gestation. Because the woman's role in sexuality is to take in from men body products (semen) that have a risk of conception, there may be a greater evolutionary need in women to be disgust sensitive in order to avoid pregnancy from undesirable males. Such a sex-related function for disgust has been buried, we suggest, under the preoccupation with the food-based origins of some disgust reactions, although Miller (2004) has at least recognised the problems that arise from the need to overcome disgust in sexual intimacy for both men and women. We firmly believe, however, that the different roles that occur for men and women in reproduction lead to a possible further role for the protective function of disgust and disgust sensitivity. The experience of sexual orgasm in women as being filled with another person's body products must require a high threshold of disgust to be overcome for a woman to allow such an incorporation of another person's body products to occur. Of course, one of the functions of a different emotion, that of love, is that it allows such sensitivities and defences to be overcome, and it is to love and happiness that we turn next.
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