Disgust Works

A feeling of disgust re contamination keeps people well:

Both disgust and contamination sensitivity likely evolved to protect us from infectious disease. Paradoxically, disgust may be reduced by frequent exposure to disgust-inducing cues — cues most likely to occur in disease-rich environments. In this study, we examined whether more frequent or recent illness might act to reverse this process. To test this, we surveyed 616 adults, obtaining illness frequency and recency data, disgust and contamination sensitivity, and a variety of control measures. Heightened contamination sensitivity was associated with more frequent infectious illness, but not with recency of infection. We also found that participants who had heightened contamination sensitivity and who were also more disgust sensitive had significantly fewer recent infections. These findings suggest that frequent illness may up-regulate contamination sensitivity potentially counteracting the effects of exposure on disgust. More importantly, these data provide the first direct evidence of a protective effect of contamination and disgust, against infectious disease.

People may over apply their disgust at times, but they probably also under apply it at other times.  Given what they know about what can infect them, they may well get their disgust level about right.

GD Star Rating
loading...
Tagged as: ,
Trackback URL:
  • Constant

    “Given what they know about what can infect them, it is not clear they aren’t don’t get their disgust level about right.”

    Could you restate that?

  • jonathan

    People are extremely relative about disgust. For example, people actively shy away from a sneezer but almost no one cleans a gym machine before they use it. Some of that is social cuing; if I clean a machine before using it, that means I don’t trust the person before me cleaned it or cleaned it well enough and that is a form of challenge to the person who used it before, even if that person is long gone. If the person who used the machine had a social role of cleaning it, then you’re not trusting and that is a social cuing issue.

  • q

    there was a news report (npr?) somewhere about a public health campaign in nigeria that used disgust to encourage people to wash their hands after defecating.

  • anon

    “there was a news report (npr?) somewhere about a public health campaign in nigeria that used disgust to encourage people to wash their hands after defecating.”

    In Benin they need to encourage people to use toilets/latrines instead of taking a dump in the outdoors. How’s that for disgusting?