This study examined parent-offspring communication of disgust-related information and its effects on children's feelings of disgust and fear towards an animal. Mothers were instructed to provide information about a novel animal to their children (N=60) by studying in secrecy either disgusting or neutral attributes that were allegedly characteristic of this animal. First, mothers were instructed to do this in a nonverbal way; then they were also allowed to use verbal utterances. Results indicated that nonverbal communication of disgust by the mothers failed to produce any effects on offspring's subjective evaluations of the animal. However, verbal information transmission did have a differential impact on children's feelings of disgust and fear. That is, children to whom mothers had verbally communicated about a set of disgusting specimens not only displayed higher levels of disgust (Cohen's d=1.02) but also exhibited higher levels of fear (Cohen's d=.62) towards the novel animal as compared to children to whom mothers had verbally communicated about neutral specimens. The effect on fear was mainly due to the fact that children after the verbal neutral information exhibited a clear decline in fear, whereas children to whom mothers had provided verbal disgust information maintained a similar level of fear towards the animal. The implications of these results for the familial transmission of disgust and fear will be discussed.
- mother-offspring communication
- verbal communication
- nonverbal communication
- COMMON CHILDHOOD FEARS
- SPIDER PHOBIA