The impact of pathogen-disgust sensitivity on vaccine and GM food risk perceptions: Some evidence for skepticism
AbstractRecently scholars and popular commentators have suggested that disgust plays an important role in generating conflict over the risks of both GM foods and universal-childhood vaccinations. This paper presents evidence that calls that conclusion into doubt. Results from a large, diverse sample of U.S. adults corroborate that that anxiety over GM foods and over vaccines correlates with the standard pathogen disgust scale (PDS). But so do a multitude of perceived risks that are not plausibly related to disgust—including fear of flying in commercial airliners, worry about elevator crashes in high-rise buildings, and distress over children drowning in swimming pools. Indeed, these correlations tend to be larger than the ones between PDS and vaccine-risk perceptions and at least as large as the ones between PDS and GM-food-risk perceptions. Because what PDS tells us about disgust-driven fears is confounded with the scale’s sensitivity to a generalized fear of all manner of risks, it is difficult to draw any confident inferences about what drives the modest correlations between PDS and GM-food and vaccine risk perceptions.