What is Disgust…


Disgust is one of the emotions of human beings, and yet the phenomenon of disgust is ambiguous. This artificial experiment focus on the theory that disgust evolves to protect us from diseases (BBC). Weak / moderate evidence along with some peculiar results were found in the favor of the theory: disgust evolved to protect us from diseases.


Disgust is a type of aversive reaction that requires withdrawing from a person or object with strong expressions of dislike (Basic Emotions). It is one of the basic emotions and characteristically connected with things that are regarded as “unclean, inedible, infectious, gory or otherwise offensive” (Basic Emotions). Furthermore, studies and different researches on this topic illuminate some other things which also cause disgust feelings in human. Self-report and behavioral studies found that disgust elicitors include:

  • Body products ( feces, urine, vomit, sexual fluids, saliva, and mucus)
  • Foods ( spoiled food)
  • Animals (fleas, ticks, lice, cockroaches, worms, flies, rats, and mice)
  • Hygiene (visible dirt)

These all things are generally consider as disgust approximately by every society in the world (Dirt, Disgust, and Disease).

Further studies on this topic elicit some other interesting things like, disgust is a healthy behavior and when it comes  to infectious diseases, disgust help us to stay away from sick person, body fluids and all the other stuff that make us react “yuck” (Roxby). Hence, the present experiment is important to test the theory that disgust evolves to protect us from diseases. The Hypothesis for this experiment is as follow: ‘the more that something resembles a disease threat, the more disgusting it should be’ (BBC Disgust Test).


We were 20 students how participated in an online test, which is found on BBC News, named as BBC Disgust Test on the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/ humanbody /mind/emotions/disgust.shtml> During the test, 19 different pictures were shown to us and disgust was score between 1(not disgust) to 5 (very disgust) by each student.


Table 1- Results for Disgust Rating for General

S.NO# Picture            Theory Predicts            Class Average Class Average – theory Predicts
1 Football 1 3.04 2.04
2 Cat 1 2.08 1.08
3 Teeth and Gums 5 4.92 -0.08

Table 2- Results for Disgust Rating for Chemical Vs Organic

S. No# Picture            Theory Predicts            Class Average Class Average – Theory Predicts
1 Blue Slime 2 2.48 0.48
2 Yellow Slime 4 3.52 -0.48
3 Yellow Stain 5 4.08 -0.92
4 Blue Stain 1 2.16 0.16
5 Green Slime 5 2.8 -2.2

Table 3- Results for Disgust Rating for Creepy Crawlies

S. No# Picture            Theory Predicts            Class Average            Class Average- Theory Predicts
1 Body Louse 4 4.32 0.32
2 Worm 3 2.8 -0.2
3 Wasp 1 3.04 2.04
4 Caterpillar 2 4.76 2.76


The results in Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3 illustrate quite variable answers and provide weak/moderate supporting evidence for the hypothesis: the more that something resembles a disease treat, the more disgust it should be. The most important thing we observe in this experiment is that for 19 pictures, we did not get even a single Class Average result same as Theory Predicts. The differences between Class Average and Theory Predicts yields 6 negative answers and 13 positive answers; negative answers implies that student consider these things more disgusting than Theory Predicts and positive answers emphasize that Theory Predicts consider these things more disgusting than  Class Average. We observe that participates of this experiment show less tendency towards disgusting things because most of the differences between Class Average and Theory Predicts have positive answers. Studies reveal that disgust is a good behavior which reduces the chance of infectious diseases but all participates are healthy despites of having less inclination towards disgusting things. On the bases of our observation we get our deduction that rating of disgusting is variable and it is also not important that if anyone is consider things as less disgust is more vulnerable to diseases because all the students who participated in this experiment were healthy.

Table 1 shows result for disgust rating of General things where muddy football is consider as disgusting by most of students and we get difference of Class Average and Theory Predict as 2.04. Theory Predicts consider it as less disgusting because most of the time it don’t causes diseases. All participates were girls and most of the time girls not play football so that may be a reason to consider muddy football as more disgust.

Table 2 have list of Chemical Verses Organic materials. The first four results are supporting our hypothesis somehow but we obverse anomalous result for the last one which is -2.2 for Green Slime Fluid. According to studies Green Slime substances make us think of snot. Mucus can have dangerous bacteria and viruses and we produce more of it when we are ill. Most people think the thought of eating this might make them uncomfortable (BBC Disgust Test). Green slime despite of been like as mucus (the most disgusting thing and symptom of many diseases) most of the students consider it as less disgusting. This is totally opposite of our hypothesis and many studies about disgust. Student did not consider it as disgust, may be instead of thinking about mucus they might think about delicious green fruit shake because they did not able to smell it or taste it to know how disgust may be that green thing in a picture.

Further, Table 3 shows results of creepy crawlies, the first two results are supporting our hypothesis but the last two results are deviated from our prediction. We observe results for Wasp and Caterpillar as 2.04 and 2.76 respectively. These are the highest differences we observe so far between Class Average and Theory Predicts. These are opposite from the first case where we discuss about Green Slime. According to studies Wasp may give you a hurtful sting, but it won’t cause any disease. They are in fact fairly beautiful in close-up (BBC Disgust Test). And Caterpillars don’t cause any kind of harm like other human parasites. They just want to be butterflies when they grow up (BBC Disgust Test). Despite of not having any relation with serious diseases and contiguous infections most of the students consider them as more disgust than Theory Predicts. For these anomalous results it will be the batter answer that this experiment was artificial and in rating disgust not only slight but smell and taste are equally important. In this experiment student judge the pictures (not a real insects( while utilizing their sense of slight which is not suffice to get correct answers for this experiment because most of things we reject due to bad smell or due to taste. So to get accurate results it is necessary to perform real experiment.

In conclusion it was found that rating of disgust is varies from person to person and it is not necessary that always the things which are resemble to diseases causing things but they did not cause diseases should consider as the most disgust. Further, to get an accurate result of any experiment it is important to perform real experiment because artificial experiment is not enough to observe things with all senses.

Works Cited

“BBC Disgust Test.” BBC Sceince $ Nature. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2o13.              <http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/disgust/index.shtml&gt;

“Basic Emotions.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2013      <http://changingminds.org/explanations/emotions/basic%20emotions.htm&gt;

Curtis, Valerie, and Adam Biran. “Dirt, Disgust, and Disease: Is Hygiene in Our Genes?”

Medicine and Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013


Roxby, Philippa. “Why Feeling Disgust Can Be Good for Us.” BBC Health News. Health

Reporter, BBC News, 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2013



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