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Yuck! The Science Of Disgust

From spoiled milk to monkey brains – and worse. What revolts us and why? We’ll take on the science of disgust.

’That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion’ by Rachel Herz. (W.W. Norton)

’That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion’ by Rachel Herz. (W.W. Norton)

We talk a lot about basic human emotions:  happiness, sadness, anger fear, surprise.  The ugly duckling, the one we don’t talk so much about, is disgust.  But it’s out there.  Potent.  Ubiquitous.  Ready to pounce.  A horrible smell, a bloody spill, a rotten dish.  Ooey, gooey, nasty, slimy, sticky stuff – ooh, gross!  Disgusting! Unless we like some of that stuff.

A pungent cheese may disgust me and delight you.  Cheese with maggots?  Some people love it.  Disgust is part instinct.  It’s part culture.  And it goes very deep in our psyches.

This hour, On Point:  the window on us that is disgust.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Rachael Herz, psychologist, neuroscientist, and leading expert on the psychology of smell. She’s the author of That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Disgust is the Cinderella of emotions. While fear, sadness and anger, its nasty, flashy sisters, have drawn the rapt attention of psychologists, poor disgust has been hidden away in a corner, left to muck around in the ashes. ”

The Washington Post “Sorry, America. NBC’s gross-out, terror-inducing series “Fear Factor” is back. Whether you’re a fan or a foe, though, Rachel Herz’s “That’s Disgusting” should be required reading. Herz, an olfactory psychology expert at Brown University, knows of what she speaks: Since 2008 she has been a judge at the National Rotten Sneakers Contest.”

More

Take this survey, created by psychologist Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia, to measure your tolerance of disgust and compare it to others.

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