Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Valentiner, David P.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Clinical psychology


Specific phobia is a common psychological disorder. Despite the established efficacy of fear-based exposure therapy in the treatment of this disorder, a large number of patients do not seek or complete this treatment. Disgust is an emotional response that has been linked to multiple different phobias, but the use of disgust exposures in specific phobia has not been rigorously studied. The goal of the current study was to examine the presence of disgust in spider- and height-fearful individuals, as well as to investigate the possible utility of a brief disgust exposure in these fears. The results of the study indicated that both spider- and height-fearful participants exhibited higher trait disgust than individuals without either of these fears. However, spider-fearful participants exhibited state disgust in response to pictures of spiders, while height-fearful participants did not exhibit state disgust in response to pictures of heights. A brief disgust intervention was found to decrease disgust and fear responses in spider-fearful individuals, though these changes were modest. It was also found to decrease their negative beliefs about exposure therapy, though they did not report increases in willingness to engage in exposure therapy. The disgust exposure did not lead to any significant changes in the height-fearful group. Changes in distress tolerance were not implicated in any exposure-related change. The results of the current study indicate that a disgust exposure could potentially be a possible alternative treatment for spider-fearful individuals, and could also be effective for other disgust-relevant phobias. The results also provide evidence of the importance of emotion specificity in conducting phobias. Limitations and future directions are also discussed.


Advisors: David P. Valentiner.||Committee members: M. Anne Britt; Amanda M. Durik; Katherine Harris; Karen J. White; Kevin D. Wu.||Includes illustrations.||Includes bibliographical references.


120 pages




Northern Illinois University

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