The Disgust-Promotes-Disposal Effect

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The Disgust-Promotes-Disposal Effect

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Title: The Disgust-Promotes-Disposal Effect
Author: Lerner, Jennifer S.; Han, Seunghee; Zeckhauser, Richard Jay

Note: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.

Citation: Han, Seunghee, Lerner, Jennifer and Zeckhauser, Richard J. 2012. Disgust Promotes Disposal: Souring the Status Quo. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 44(2): 101-113.
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Abstract: Individuals tend toward status quo bias: preferring existing options over
new ones. There is a countervailing phenomenon: Humans naturally dispose of
objects that disgust them, such as foul-smelling food. But what if the source of
disgust is independent of the object? We induced disgust via a film clip to see if
participants would trade away an item (a box of unidentified office supplies) for a
new item (alternative unidentified box). Such “incidental disgust” strongly countered
status quo bias. Disgusted people exchanged their present possession 51% of the time
compared to 32% for people in a neutral state. Thus, disgust promotes disposal. A
second experiment tested whether a warning about this tendency would diminish it. It
did not. These results indicate a robust disgust-promotes-disposal effect. Because
these studies presented real choices with tangible rewards, their findings have
implications for everyday choices and raise caution about the effectiveness of warnings
about biases.
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