Disgust: it’s one of our basic emotions, and yet, how much do we really understand it?
This week, a programme to test how strong your stomach is. Why is slimy slithery food so often unappetizing? And why do babies respond to bitter tastes by screwing up their noses? We’ll be exploring disgust: when it’s a useful tool to keep us safe from disease and poisoning, and when it’s a gut reaction that could encourage risk-aversion and even predict the way we vote.
David Pizarro is an American psychologist from CornellUniversity whose research raises the possibility that disgust sensitivity may help shape moral judgements. He has also conducted studies which suggests that measuring where you stand on a Disgust Sensitivity scale, and especially how squeamish you are about things such as drinking from a stranger’s glass by mistake, might predict your political views.
Australian sensory scientist John Prescott has spent years studying human taste and smell to work out why some food is delicious and other things turn your stomach. He suggests that the faces we pull when we are confronted with something truly revolting are not unique to humans and explains the subtle interplay between our facial expressions and the way we feel.
Iain Hutchison is one of UK’s leading oral and maxillofacial surgeons who specialises in treating people whose faces have been changed, often beyond recognition, by cancer, traumatic injury or birth defects. He explains why people with severe facial disfigurements are frequently unfairly judged and how modern reconstructive surgery can transform the way we perceive someone’s personality.
60 second idea
David Pizarro wants us to confront our prejudices against people whom we find disgusting. He’d like to introduce a machine into airports and city streets that would randomly spray a bad odour onto passers by. If you were one of the 'victims' you'd soon get used to the smell, but the people you meet, would not: so - at least for a day - you'd experience at first hand what it is like to be a member of a despised, discriminated-against group.
In next week's programme
The mysterious invisible vortexes at the heart of everything: supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies which could hold a clue to the size of the universe and even to the secret of life on Earth; plus complex financial instruments and offshore companies. With astronomer Caleb Scharf, novelist CK Stead and industrial investigator Chris Morgan Jones.