Journal article

Ugliness Judgments Alert us to Cues of Pathogen Presence

Christoph Klebl, Katharine H Greenaway, Joshua Ju-suk Rhee, Brock Bastian

Social Psychological and Personality Science | SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC | Published : 2020


Little is known about the psychology of ugliness. We propose that ugliness judgments are linked to the behavioral immune system, alerting us to objects that may contain potentially harmful diseases. Exploring this possibility, in five studies (N = 1,552), we found that ugly human faces (Studies 1a and 1b), ugly animals (Study 2), and—to a lesser degree—ugly buildings (Study 2) elicit disgust controlling for other avoidance-motivated emotional responses. Furthermore, the presence (vs. absence) of disease cues were found to elicit ugliness judgments (Studies 3 and 4) suggesting that ugliness judgments respond to cues of pathogen presence. As such, ugliness may activate the behavioral immune sy..

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