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Individual differences in psychological feelings of contamination Herba, Joanna K.

Abstract

Feelings of contamination can arise without physical contact with a contaminant. This study examined individual differences in sensitivity to mental contamination. Female undergraduates at UBC (n=100) filled out a series of questionnaires and listened to an audiotape that instructed them to imagine experiencing a forced kiss by an undesirable male. Controls (n=20) imagined a consensual kiss by a desirable male. Women in the nonconsensual condition reported greater feelings of dirtiness and urge to wash than those in the consensual condition. Twenty-seven women rinsed in order to alleviate physical sensations evoked by the tape. High scores on measures of physical contamination fears predicted reported dirtiness and urge to wash. Actual rinsing was associated with higher scores on fear of negative evaluation. Results are discussed in terms of methodological issues, as well as implications for future research into contamination.

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