The University of Sussex

Evaluative conditioning using disgust facial expressions as unconditioned stimuli: evidence for selective conditioning effects

Andy P. Field, Jeremy Tree, Graham C.L. Davey

The present paper describes an evaluative conditioning study in which pictures of facial expressions of disgust (the unconditioned stimuli, UCSs) were paired with either disgust-relevant conditioned stimuli (CSs)(pictures of foodstuffs) or disgust-irrelevant CSs (pictures of cars). The effects of facial expressions of disgust on CS evaluations were also compared with the evaluative effects produced by pairing these CSs with two other facial expressions, namely anger and happiness. The results showed that differential evaluative conditioning was found only when disgust expressions were used as UCSs, and then only when disgust-relevant CSs were paired with them. In addition, negative shifts in the evaluation of disgust-relevant CSs paired with the disgust expression occurred only when specific criteria were met for the subjects being consciously aware of the contingencies. These findings demonstrate selective associative effects in the conditioning of evaluative shifts using emotional faces as the UCS, and the results are discussed in relation to theories of the communicative function of the disgust emotion.

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