Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 14 - A big amygdala

Today we continue to look into the rancid yet riveting world of disgustologists.  What are they studying? They are studying part of our body - our brain's amygdala.  The bigger it is, the more likely a person is to be conservative.

The field has determined that there are 6 categories of disgust:
  • poor hygiene  (snotty tissues, body odour, a dirty apartment bathroom)
  • animals and pests (cockroaches, rats, infestations)
  • sexual behaviour (prostitution, promiscuity)
  • irregular or strange appearances (obesity, disfigured faces, amputated body parts, poverty, wheezy breathing)
  • lesions or visible signs of infection 
  • rotting or decaying food
They are described in detail in this Popular Science article HERE.  The article summarize it in a nutshell:  'that feeling when someone you find sexually revolting offers you a stinky pizza".

In the studies, one of the aspects that is observed is horripilation.  That word means the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear, or excitement, "a horripilation of dread tingled down my spine"

Is it all physiology and genes or is there socialization involved?  Michael de Barra, the research psychologist who defined these six categories says this:  Genes might decide what kills us and what doesn’t, but it’s through our interactions with the environment and with other people that we learn how to calibrate and adjust to our surroundings. So while the six categories might broadly encompass most disgusting things, there will still be intense variability depending on who you’re talking to and what they’re background might be.

Here's a great quote to help us understand why this is so fascinating for scientists:  "Disgust is an organ – like an eye or an ear. It has a purpose, it's there for a reason," said self-described "disgustologist" Valerie Curtis"Just like a leg gets you from A to B, disgust tells you which things you are safe to pick up and which things you shouldn't touch.

And this book:  This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behaviour and Shape Society
by .  
Based on a wildly popular Atlantic  article, this is an astonishing investigation into the world of microbes, and the myriad ways they control how other creatures — including humans — act, feel, and think.  "Our obsession with cleanliness and our experience of disgust are both evolutionary tools for avoiding infection, but they evolved differently for different populations. Political, social, and religious differences among societies may be caused, in part, by the different parasites that prey on us."

So let's take an informal disgustology test?  What is the subject of this abstract picture?

It is a close-up of a person's beard.  Here he is.  What is your reaction?

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