Disgust, Attention, and COVID-19

Throughout my semester abroad, the theme of COVID-19 was always prevalent. Fortunately, I was able to conduct a study on how disgust would affect our attention within the context of this virus, and present our findings at the end of the semester (similar to CLAS!). Some of the key findings we found were participants who scored higher on the COVID-19 survey (indicating higher concern) tended to attenuate more toward the clean stimuli (whether by dwelling slightly longer or having more revisits). We also found, not to our surprise from sitting through all of the trials, that people usually looked at the disgusting images more in general. This may be due to the images posing more of a threat and requiring more attention to be aware of the risk in order to better avoid it. While we did not have enough participants to get a high enough power to determine gender differences or priming significance, it was still interesting to see how individual’s behavior and attitudes toward COVID-19 influenced their attention tendencies. Overall, our results indicated that the more concerned an individual is for health threats such as the virus, the more likely they would be to want to avoid disgusting stimuli that also represent a threat to their health, which supports the theory that disgust is a disease avoidance mechanism.

From being able to study abroad during the pandemic to conducting research about it, I am extremely grateful for these opportunities at DIS. Although we were not allowed to travel out of the country, I was able to truly immerse myself in the Swedish culture with visits to different cities and provinces through school trips. This semester has been an extremely valuable and special experience, and I am so happy it went as well as it did (I did not get sick once!). Despite my worries and concern for how Sweden was handling the pandemic at first, my thoughts toward their approach are less harsh (though still critical) compared to my first post. While I still think masks should be mandated in public spaces, I could understand now that Sweden was able to prioritize people’s mental health by not having a lockdown of everything, which also helped their economy to not take as big of a hit compared to the U.S. Only time will tell how these effects will play out in the long-run, but Sweden may once again prove themselves despite the unorthodox methods.