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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mosher, M.J., (Anthropologist)

Second Advisor

Bruna, Sean

Third Advisor

Koetje, Todd A.


The gag reflex evolved to protect individuals from choking, due to the unique overlap between the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts in adult humans. A potentially related response is disgust, an emotion that influences avoidance of harmful foods. Both responses are protective, but the gag reflex is little studied outside the context of dental procedures. Selective eaters are known to reject foods, particularly vegetables, due to perceived disagreeable textures, tastes, and other sensory characteristics. This study explores two hypotheses to examine possible relationships of these three reactions: 1) stronger gagging will be accompanied by a more sensitive disgust response and 2) selective eaters will exhibit a more extreme response to gag and disgust triggers. Methods consisted of the Predictive Gagging Survey, the Disgust Scale-Revised (DS-R), and an itemized list of behaviors adapted from previous studies distributed to students at Western Washington University. SPSS Statistics 24.0 is used for statistical analyses. Results supported hypothesis one but rejected hypothesis two. Further tests showed significant correlations between selective eating behaviors and four variables determined through the following surveys: the Predictive Gagging Survey and the DS-R. More studies are needed to elucidate the relationship of the gag reflex and disgust sensitivity to food preferences and selective eating behaviors.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Aversive stimuli--Research; Avoidance (Psychology); Food preferences--Research; Food habits--Psychological aspects; Throat; Reflexes




masters theses




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