The feeling of disgust isn’t particularly enjoyable, but new research suggests the “ewww” has its role: People who are disgusted are better at detecting impurities.
In other words, disgust makes it easier to see dirt and other nastiness that might make us sick, researchers reported online Nov. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.
The findings aren’t the first example of emotions influencing perceptions. Spiders, for example, look bigger to people who fear them, according to research published in February in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. Similarly people who are afraid of heights think drops look bigger than they are.
University of Virginia researchers were interested in finding out whether disgust skews our perceptions, too. Disgust motivates cleanliness, they reasoned, and cleanliness is symbolized across many cultures as whiteness — think of a bathroom cleaner commercial that emphasizes shots of gleaming white porcelain to sell its product.
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