Pathogen disgust, but not moral disgust, changes across the menstrual cycle

Published: 2 March 2021| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/ffygxjytbm.1


The Compensatory Prophylaxis Hypothesis (CPH) proposes that during periods of increased susceptibility to infections, e.g., during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when progesterone suppresses immune function, women should feel more disgust toward pathogen cues and behave prophylactically. We investigate differences in disgust sensitivity and contamination sensitivity during different phases of the menstrual cycle in regularly cycling, healthy 93 rural and urban Polish women using the within-subject design. Disgust sensitivity was measured during two different phases of a menstrual cycle: 1) the follicular phase (the 5th or 6th day of the cycle) and 2) the luteal phase (on the 5th day after a positive ovulatory test or on 20th day of a cycle if the result of the ovulatory test was not positive). In the luteal phase, women scored higher on the Pathogen Disgust of the Three-Domain Disgust Scale, the Contamination Obsessions and Washing Compulsions Subscale of Padua Inventory, and on ratings of photographs showing sources of potential infections than in the follicular phase. Moral Disgust of the Three-Domain Disgust Scale did not differ between cycle phases. Hence, results suggest that women feel more disgusted toward cues to pathogens during the luteal phase, when susceptibility to infection is greater. We suggest that it is necessary to incorporate ovulatory testing as well as to conduct repeated measurements of disgust sensitivity in future tests of the CPH. Moreover, we believe that understanding how the feeling of pathogen disgust varies across the menstrual cycle and in relation to progesterone levels could be useful in designing effective infectious diseases prevention strategies for women.



Uniwersytet Jagiellonski Instytut Zdrowia Publicznego


Evolutionary Biology, Disgust, Human Behavior