The "Ick" Factor, Anticipated Regret, and Willingness to Become an Organ Donor

Ronan E. O'Carroll, Catherine Foster, Grant McGeechan, Kayleigh Sandford, Eamonn Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This research tested the role of traditional rational-cognitive factors and emotional barriers to posthumous organ donation. An example of an emotional barrier is the "ick" factor, a basic disgust reaction to the idea of organ donation. We also tested the potential role of manipulating anticipated regret to increase intention to donate in people who are not yet registered organ donors. Design: In three experiments involving 621 members of the United Kingdom general public, participants were invited to complete questionnaire measures tapping potential emotional affective attitude barriers such as the "ick" factor, the desire to retain bodily integrity after death, and medical mistrust. Registered posthumous organ donors were compared with nondonors. In Experiments 2 and 3, nondonors were then allocated to a simple anticipated regret manipulation versus a control condition, and the impact on intention to donate was tested. Main Outcome Measures: Self-reported emotional barriers and intention to donate in the future. Results: Traditional rational-cognitive factors such as knowledge, attitude, and subjective norm failed to distinguish donors from nondonors. However, in all three experiments, nondonors scored significantly higher than donors on the emotional "ick" factor and bodily integrity scales. A simple anticipated regret manipulation led to a significant increase in intention to register as an organ donor in future. Conclusions: Negative affective attitudes are thus crucial barriers to people registering as organ donors. A simple anticipated regret manipulation has the potential to significantly increase organ donation rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-245
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


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