WBEZ | evolutionary psychology http://www.wbez.org/tags/evolutionary-psychology Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Clever Apes #11: Deconstructing disgust http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-26/clever-apes-11-deconstructing-disgust-85712 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-27/Mr20Yuck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" height="369" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-April/2011-04-26/Mr Yuck.jpg" title="" width="500"></p><p>Last time around on Clever Apes we dipped into realms of science that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-13/clever-apes-10-yuck-85105">some might consider disgusting</a>. Now we turn to the science of disgust itself.</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483487-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Clever_Apes_11_Deconstructing_Disgust.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>What is disgust, and where does it come from? There are a few places where scientists can look for clues, starting with what disgusts people. We did a decidedly unscientific survey of kids at the <a href="http://msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/body-worlds/">Museum of Science and Industry</a>, and the results line up pretty well with what <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1993-98937-034">actual experts say</a>. They break out in a few categories: bodily secretions (blood, vomit, feces, puss), animals that could carry disease (insects, vermin), and certain foods (pot pies … don’t ask). A few common ones our pint-sized sample group didn’t bring up, thankfully, include corpses and incest.</p><p>Then there’s the strong physiological response to disgust, especially nausea and facial contortions. According to psychologist <a href="http://www.psych.upenn.edu/%7Erozin/">Paul Rozin</a>, that evidence indicates that disgust has its origins in <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/94/1/23/">avoiding toxic agents in stuff we eat</a>. Evolutionary anthropologist <a href="http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/fessler/">Dan Fessler</a> adds that the feeling then gets generalized to all sorts of other things, from sexual mores all the way up to our deepest moral convictions.</p><p>One place where Rozin and Fessler part ways: Rozin, <a href="http://www.sas.upenn.edu/sasalum/newsltr/fall97/rozin.html">one of the forefathers of disgust theory</a>, believes disgust serves to <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/130/3/427/">distance us from our most animalistic behaviors</a>: dying, procreating, eating, pooping. By this view disgust is existential armor, protecting us from having to come to terms with our bestial nature. Fessler is skeptical of that argument (in part because of <a href="http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/fessler/pubs/NavarreteNormativeBiasEP.pdf">his own experimental results</a>). He argues the disgust response has become a way to <a href="http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/fessler/pubs/Fessler&amp;HaleyOrganDisgust.pdf">define and protect boundaries</a> – from national borders right down to the boundaries of our own bodies.</p><p>In any case, disgust seems to be a basic human emotion, written into our nature by evolution, shaping and shaped by our culture.&nbsp;</p><p>Subscribe to the Clever Apes&nbsp;<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, or find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" style="text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150);" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 20:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-26/clever-apes-11-deconstructing-disgust-85712