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Science
FRONTIERS
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Wednesday 21:00-21:30
Frontiers explores new ideas in science, meeting the researchers who see the world through fresh eyes and challenge existing theories - as well as hearing from their critics. Many such developments create new ethical and moral questions and Frontiers is not afraid to consider these.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 26 December
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Wednesday 26 December 2007
yellow, slimey liquid in dish
How would you feel about touching this?

SCIENCE OF DISGUST

BASIC DISGUST
Claudia Hammond explores new research into the science of disgust. It is a unique emotion that has evolved to control our gut reactions to bodily fluids and prevent us from coming in contact with disease.

Claudia Hammond visits a children’s nursery to find out when 2 – 3 year olds begin to experience disgust. The Freudian view has been that disgust begins with potty training, but contemporary scientists dispute this and believe it comes when children are old enough to choose their own food.

Animals do not have the disgust response, as Harvard Professor Marc Hauser has discovered in his work with primates.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF DISGUST

At the University of Virginia, Professor John Haidt has monitored the heart rates of people when they are disgusted and found that it slows as opposed to when subjects are frightened, when it goes up.

And Susan Fiske, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University has used MRI brain scanning to identify which part of the brain lights up when subjects are shown disgusting photographs.

Both pieces of research have led to fascinating findings revealed on Frontiers.

MORAL DISGUST
Using this understanding of what happens in the body when we are disgusted, scientists in America have taken the research a step further. When subjects were shown pictures of homeless people, drug addicts or videos of offensive moral content, heart rates also went down and the disgust part of the brain lit up.

This new science suggests that our moral judgements are influenced by disgust.

POLITICS AND DISGUST
More new research by Professor Paul Bloom at Yale University has also revealed that our disgust sensitivity may even be influencing the way we vote.

He explains his results in Frontiers and Claudia Hammond tests this link on two students at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Test your sensitivity to disgust here
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