Aims: The colorectal cancer (CRC) context contains numerous elicitors of disgust including screening tests requiring exposure to faeces, rectal examinations, invasive surgery and unpleasant bowel symptoms. Disgust has evolved to minimise contamination risk through avoidance and withdrawal and may have serious implications in the CRC context. Because aspects of mindfulness facilitate greater tolerance of unpleasant emotion and more considered decision-making, it may promote enhanced behavioural responses in CRC contexts.
Methods: 80 healthy volunteers completed measures of dispositional mindfulness prior to visiting the laboratory. Participants were block randomised according to gender to either an olfactory disgust induction or a control condition before completing tasks assessing immediate avoidance of a disgust elicitor (stoma bag) and anticipated avoidance of a hypothetical CRC drug with disgusting side effects.
Results: Manipulation checks confirmed the successful elicitation of disgust in the experimental condition (F(1,78)=8.72, p=.004). As expected, participants with greater non-judging mindfulness were less disgusted than people with low mindfulness (more judging), (F(1,74)=4.70, p=.03). When making decisions about medication side effects, non-reacting mindfulness predicted less avoidance of a disgusting drug (Wald=4.25, df=1, p=.04) odds ratio 3.14 (95% CI 1.05-9.33). However when disgusted, individuals high in non-judging mindfulness required a prompt (F(1,74)=5.51, p=.02) and took longer to touch a stoma bag (F(1,56)=5.63, p=.02) suggesting more considered decision-making when experiencing unpleasant emotion.
Conclusions: The current report suggests that mindfulness may play a role in enhanced decision-making and avoidance of disgust elicitors in CRC contexts. Training in non-judging and non-reacting mindfulness may prove beneficial in addressing problematic avoidance behaviours in the CRC context.