On BioScience and Life and Such

Disgust switch background

In FDH-OFF project on January 30, 2023 at 12:42 pm

Update 4 on the Fear-Disgust-Hate project

Update 1 established that reading can, activate aspects of the fear-response.

Update 2 looked into possible ways of treating fear based on non-pharmaceutical therapy methods, and listed a first draft of standard-short-text responses.

Update 3 expanded the list of standard-short-text responses based on methods for everyday use outside of the therapy room.

Next: Provide background for a disgust OFF-switch.

Like fear, disgust is one of our primary emotions (anger, fear, disgust, sadness, happiness, and surprise) and reading something is likely to activate a disgust response .

Disgust-triggers however, seems to have a larger component of social learning than fear. Something buried in our nature like the need to avoid infections, is believed to be a fundamental origin for the disgust response, but mostly we get disgusted by what society tells us rather than from some instinctive cue.

Social learning then, is most likely also the key to reduce or remove inappropriate disgust flags (ref 1). Our standard short texts should function as such social learning, and must aim to achieve a reversal of inappropriate disgust.

However unlearning disgust seems to be harder than unlearning fear. Maladaptive disgust responses are tenacious and resistant to exposure-based interventions and disgust-avoidance/escape is harder than for fear (ref 2).

One reason being that the disgust trigger may not be physically present. From “Optimising Extinction of Conditioned Disgust“:

As an example, a person inflicted with a sexually transmitted infection can be highly contaminating, also in the absence of obvious symptoms or cues that signal the person’s contaminating properties. Because it is difficult to decide whether a stimulus is free from pathogens by mere visual inspection

Thus, the typical strategies that formed the basis for the Fear-short-text-responses will probably not work sufficiently to counter disgust.

Fear-escape is mostly based on some kind of therapeutic exposure (or intermediate removal of exposure before re-exposure). While strategies used for disgust-escape in pathologies also uses some form of exposure, they need additional inputs, like reassuring information about the safety of the stimulus, or other modifications.

This needs to be accounted for when the next post embarks upon making some Disgust OFF-switches.


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