top of page

Filthy Cities? Nasty Women? Hey Man, That’s Disgusting!

Donald Trump's Disgust
DISGUST is revealed in a facial expression that is both revolted and revolting. It's also contagious.

Some powerful people use verbal and facial expressions of DISGUST (nasty infestation, filthy shit hole) referring to things or people to make us despise them, or worse, discard them. The president referred to a sitting congressman's home town as a “very dangerous & filthy place,” a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” He declared the Danish prime minister “nasty,” as he has other powerful women, always in an effort to make them repugnant to us, as they are to him. Unfortunately, he is on solid ground.

Disgust contaminates everything it touches

 Sean De Burca/Getty Images

Research shows the human sensation of DISGUST is so powerful it contaminates everything it touches—even ideas. You see, DISGUST is both sensory and cognitive. A physical response and an emotion. Science writer Kathleen MacAuliffe calls it the Yuck Factor. It registers in the brain’s amygdala (feeling) and cerebellum (thought). We gag, maybe, and we associate that nauseated sensation with any thought within range. Even a completely unrelated ideation can be tainted by the physical urge to expel it, like flies in the milk.

Psychologists call this the Disgust Disposal Effect which, rational or not, causes us to want to get rid of things that disgust us, writes behaviorologist Vanessa Van Edwards. And it affects everything from our diet to our choice of mate or political affiliation.

Food Psychologist Paul Rozin earns his nickname (Dr. Disgust) with thought experiments like the cockroach in the cherry bowl. A single cockroach will completely destroy the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of roaches. The negative trumps the positive, if you will.

Writing in the Science Times, James Gorman gives an overview of the DISGUSTOLOGISTS, psychologists, neurologists and anthropologists who are finding implications evolutional, emotional and even moral in the phenomenon of disgust itself.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Donald Trump Disgust

At the current intersection of hyper-partisanship and hyper-connectedness, forewarned is forearmed. Let's be wary this campaign season. Those who would wield power for its own sake will first invoke DISGUST, in order to poison and direct our minds any which way they please.

Which can be highly effective. Because we’re only human.


bottom of page