Take Action

Home | Faculty & Research Overview | Research

Research Details

"Disgusted and Afraid: Consumer Choices Under the Threat of Contagious Disease", Journal of Consumer Research


onsumers regularly encounter cues of contagious disease in daily life – a commuter sneezes on the train, a colleague blows their nose in a meeting, or they read recent headlines about the dangerous spread of a disease. Research has overwhelmingly argued that the dominant response to these cues is disgust – an emotion that leads to a desire to reject and avoid potential contamination. We argue, however, that contagious disease cues can also elicit fear. Across four experiments and two large empirical data analyses of the presence of contagious disease on actual consumption behavior, we find that cues of contagious disease increase both fear and disgust, and these emotions together form a unique behavioral tendency with respect to consumer behavior. Relative to either emotion alone, disgust and fear increase preference for more familiar products asymmetrically over less familiar ones. These results contribute theoretically to research on complex emotional states and the behavioral tendencies of emotions, document a systematic and consequential impact of contagious disease cues on real consumption behavior, and have significant practical implications for marketers.




Gregory Carpenter, Chelsea Galoni, Hayagreeva Rao

Date Published



Carpenter, Gregory, Chelsea Galoni, and Hayagreeva Rao. 2020. "Disgusted and Afraid: Consumer Choices Under the Threat of Contagious Disease". Journal of Consumer Research.(3): 373-392.


Explore leading research and ideas

Find articles, podcast episodes, and videos that spark ideas in lifelong learners, and inspire those looking to advance in their careers.
learn more


Review Courses & Schedules

Access information about specific courses and their schedules by viewing the interactive course scheduler tool.


Discover the path to your goals

Whether you choose our Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, you’ll enjoy the same unparalleled education, exceptional faculty and distinctive culture.
learn more