I’m pretty sure at some point we’ve all cringed, wrinkled our noses or had the involuntary “EWE!” slip out at some point in our lives when we’ve seen something gross. Of course depending on what it is depends on your next reaction which may range from complete revulsion to fascination. When it comes to blood, guts and gore (or pus) I tend to weigh in on the fascination side. I’ve always been the person to look closer at what is grossing others out, even if we’re dealing with a dead animal on the side of the road. Bugs, insects and most rodents are another story.
A recently published study in Philosophical Transactions (The Royal Society) by Val Curtis and Mícheál de Barra sought to determine if in fact disgust evolved to protect us from disease and if we can still rely on our instinctual reaction of disgust to help us from getting sick. Curtis and de Bara recruited 2,500 participants of which two-thirds were women with an average age of 28. The study participants read brief descriptions of 75 potentially revolting scenarios they might encounter in a day rating them from “No Disgust” to “Extreme Disgust”. Curtis and de Barra were then able to develop and sort the responses into six common categories of disgust "cues" such as poor hygiene; animals/insects that bring disease; promiscuous sex; body deformities or behavioral irregularity (e.g. coughing or homelessness); lesions, blisters, boils or pus; and spoiled food.
While the results of the study may not have correlated to disease per say, they did seem to reflect the types of things and people that should be avoiding in order to not catch something infectious. The participants knew to avoid objects, skin lesions, spoilt food, individuals with poor hygiene and promiscuous sexual practices. While a feeling of disgust does not allow us to “see” pathogens, the study does provide further evidence that when we feel disgust it in does indeed correlate with staying away from something potentially infectious.
Which leads me to my fascination with lesions, blisters, boils, pus, blood, guts and gore….. Inwardly I may say “ewe”, but man do I like a good close up and investigation of what everyone else may think as being gross!
What way do you lean?