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Nervous about those "water bug" roaches you just know are getting ready to try to squat in your home for the summer? So it turns out that feeling disgust is healthy for us. It stands between us and disease/infection.

A recent story about this matter at CNN.com cites a study published June 3 in a scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Val Curtis, director of the Environmental Health Group of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is lead author of the study. "Disgust evolved to protect us from disease in our ancient past," she's quoted. "The disgust response today may, or may not, be a good guide to what might make us sick today."

Curtis and her co-author, Micheal de Barra, conduced an online survey of 2,500-plus people. They were asked to read 75 brief, potentially disgusting scenarios. "Reading the scenarios, participants rated the strength of their disgust on a scale from 'no disgust' to 'extreme disgust,'" according to the story. The disgust-producing scenarios presented via the online survey that led to the conclusion included "seeing a cockroach run across your path," "feeling something sticky on a door handle," "your friend shows you a big, oozing lesion on his foot," and "a hairless old cat rubs up against your leg." The most disgusting among participants? Runny wounds. The second most disgusting? Stinky folk.

Makes you wonder about other scenarios among the 75. We can all think of some survey choices that, although they might not be as gross, may well be found no less disgusting by many -- for example:

• Celebrity "news."

• The way the NBA championship games have gone. (The final meet-up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is Thursday, by the way, so there's opportunity for even more lifesaving disgust.)

• That business suit, Bermuda-shorts style, recently sported by the Cavaliers' LeBron James.

• Getting several pay-TV channels, and nothing worth watching on any of them.

• Finding that the piece of clothing you want is sold out in your size. Again.

• One aisle out of 20 being open at the grocery or big-box store.

• Any action that takes place following the statement "Hold my beer and watch this."

And there are some gross-but-general choices that, I believe, could have worked for this survey just fine, such as "Watching a gross-out comedy" or "Watching any given cleaning product commercial." The former is usually rife with scenarios that some among us find uproariously funny while the rest of us are gagging (example: American Pie; the whole Jackass film series). The latter is a reflection of advertisers who have become much more liberal about showing explicit scenarios in their onscreen demonstrations of our need for their products (i.e., the dog scooting its buns across the floor; the heavy-breathing kid picking his nose; any commercial involving a toilet).

Interesting that two-thirds of the survey participants were women ... which may lead some to wonder if researchers had a problem drumming up men because their gross-out thresholds are so much higher. The average age of the participants was 28, which could mean either that we older folk still aren't as into the Internet or -- gulp! -- our disgust thresholds are much higher and we are the ones laughing at all those stupid movies.

I wager I'm not the only one who shudders to think of the results of a disgust survey that would involve politics. Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary, author of "The Politics of Disgust," posted in November at Psychologytoday.com, warns readers about the "toxicity" of a takeover of moral disgust in political discussions between those who profess to be friends.

At any rate, Curtis and her peeps hope to use their disgust-ing research as a tool in good-hygiene-promoting campaigns in countries that lack certain good-hygiene practices -- "for example ... get people to build toilets and wash their hands with soap."

That's all well and good, but hey, there's enough disgust triggers going on in the good U. S. of A. here to keep us all nice and healthy ... bugs, warts, politics and all.

Ah, this marvelous balance of beauty and disgust ... and email:

hwilliams@arkansasonline.com

Style on 06/10/2018

Print Headline: Gross out does the body good

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