Feeling Disgust May Enhance Our Ability to Detect Impurities
Disgust – it’s an emotion we experience when we encounter things that are dirty, impure, or otherwise contaminated. From an evolutionary standpoint, experiencing the intense, visceral sense of revulsion that comes with disgust presumably helps us to avoid contaminants that can make us sick or even kill us. But new research suggests that disgust not only helps us to avoid impurities, it may also make us better able to see them.
If something looks dirty and disgusting, we typically assume it’s contaminated in some way; when something is white, however, we are more likely to assume that it’s clean and pure. Research has shown that people from many different cultures hold this association between lightness and purity, which may explain why we prefer white teeth, white operating rooms, and white porcelain bathroom fixtures.