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Grossed-Out Givers: Inoculation, Reactance, and Disgust-Eliciting Charitable Appeals

Mon, May 29, 15:30 to 16:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo 204A


Disgust is often elicited in prosocial messages to capture attention, convey the realities of an issue, and motivate action. However, discrete emotion theories suggest disgust feelings trigger a desire to distance oneself from the object of disgust. This distancing could lead to unintended outcomes like issue avoidance and reactance. Recent evidence suggests inoculation can reduce reactance to fear-inducing prosocial messages and promote intended outcomes. Studies have not tested whether inoculation offers similar benefits for disgust-eliciting messages. We tested this idea with a 2x2 (plus control) randomized experiment, varying the vividness of disgust imagery and the use of an inoculation pretreatment. Results show the inoculation treatment reduced the level of disgust elicited by a vivid disgust message. Inoculation did not reduce reactance as expected, and level of disgust elicited was positively associated with behavioral intention, contrary to our hypothesis. We discuss the implications for understanding disgust’s role in persuasion.