Disgust & Disease

Can the emotion of disgust help us stay healthy?

Recent articles from Metro.com (uk) and SF Gate suggests that it very well can.

It is scientifically proven that disgust is one of the seven basic universal facial expressions of emotion, meaning it is expressed in the same manner, on the face, across cultures.

Metro reports that researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say that disgust is a major factor in the survival of our species.

“Imagine a world without disgust.  Can you imagine how awful it would be?  You’d be treading through poo every day, there’d be food piled up and rats eating waste in the streets… we would be extinct very quickly, ” affirms Dr. Valerie Curtis lead researcher.

Dr. Curtis believes disgust is a powerful way to help people change their behavior and points out that 40% of the world has bad sanitation.  The research of Dr. Curtis and her colleagues aims to explore disgust and harness its “power” to improve our lives by curbing the spread of disease.

Past research on disgust has shown that different areas of the brain experience an increase in activity when disgusted by something.  Other species use disgust as a survival mechanism as well.  Fish avoid other fish that have parasites and mice won’t mate with other mice that are sick.

Disgust has evolved to be about survival.  It also impacts the behaviors that humans choose to make and is categorized as a  negative emotion but it has both positive and negative effects.

Dr. Matsumoto talks about the effects of disgust in his research article Emotion in Predicting Violence published in the January 2012 issue of the FBI Bulletin.

He points out that when comparing emotions such as anger, contempt and disgust, all, perhaps, negative in terms of valence, it is important to know that differences among these emotions clearly show that they are not alike.  Anger, contempt, and disgust have different physiologies, mental states, and nonverbal expressions.

He goes on to state, “disgust causes an individual to eliminate or reject contaminated objects…anger focuses on persons’ or groups’ actions, while contempt and disgust focus on who they are.

 

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