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Why disgust matters? (article)


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A free scientific article (by Valerie Curtis from the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) about disgust and disorders of the disgust system:

http://rstb.royalsoc...8.full.pdf html

Short excerpt from the intro of the part about the disorders:

Disgust sensitivity varies from one individual to another along a continuum [58]. We might expect

then that individuals at the very high, or very low ends of the spectrum might manifest behavioural problems

associated with being too easily or too little disgusted. Those who are too easily disgusted might be predicted

to manifest phobias associated with potential disease sources such as other people, body products, sexual

organs and by-products, certain foodstuffs and disease- related animals. Those who are, on the contrary,

too little disgusted might find difficulty in being accepted into society and in maintaining bodily and

domestic hygiene, with implications for their own health and that of their dependants. Unfortunate

disgust experiences might also leave unpleasant or debilitating sequelae including post traumatic stress

disorder (PTSD).

How far does the evidence bear out these predictions? A number of studies suggest that some forms

of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can best be understood as disorders of the disgust system [59].

Up to 50 per cent of OCD patients present with contamination fears [60].

And the intro of the CONCLUSIONS:

Disgust is a powerful emotion that plays an underappreciated part in all of our lives, not just in our

everyday hygiene habits and in our manners, but in our response to disease, to social hierarchy, to those who

are different from ourselves and to immorality. Disgust is a double-edged sword that is both the first line of

defence against disease, but also a cause of much human suffering. Throughout this paper, I have argued

that it is vital that we shine a spotlight into this lessexplored darker recess of our psychology. Doing so

allows us to enhance our abilities at disease prevention, to deal with many of our commonest anxieties and phobias

better and to combat the many prejudices that plague human social relations. It may even help us to

understand how to build more cooperative societies.

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