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Examples of disgust facial expressions. Illustrations from the book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin
Adriaen Brouwer : The bitter drink , around 1636–1638
Oral defense reaction of an infant

Disgust and loathing are terms for the feeling of strong aversion in connection with aversion. Unlike other, less severe forms of rejection, disgust expressed sometimes by strong physical reactions such as nausea and vomiting , sweating , falling blood pressure up to fainting . Scientifically, disgust is not just an affect , but also an instinct . The instinctive response is innate to certain smells , tastes, and sights. Additional feelings of disgust are also acquired during socialization . Disgust is used to prevent disease. Food taboos are also observed because potential foods that are taboo trigger instilled feelings of disgust.

In the opinion of Lothar Penning, who had dealt with social-scientific and cultural-historical aspects of disgust in 1984, disgust was defined as a social mechanism “that mediates culturally and pedagogically, makes use of the primitive vomiting and gag reflex to avoid the pre-rationally acquired to protect basic social identity. "

Disgust also plays a role in some phobias , but the main characteristic of a phobia is fear , not disgust. Extreme sensitivity to disgust is called idiosyncrasy in psychology . In the case of Huntington's disease, on the other hand, those affected do not feel any disgust and can no longer interpret the corresponding facial expression in others.

Development of the feeling of disgust

Disgust ( English disgust , French dégoût ) probably arises in the brain in the so-called almond kernel , which belongs to the limbic system , where other emotions are also processed. The activation of this area during disgust reactions could be proven in studies. The ability to feel disgust is innate, but feelings of disgust are only acquired through socialization during the first few years of life . It has been proven that toddlers do not yet feel disgust for substances, objects or smells; they also put feces, bugs, or earthworms in their mouths. Sometimes reference is made to the fact that even newborns react to the bitter taste of liquid by grimacing their faces, but the majority of scientists do not interpret this as a reaction of disgust, but as an innate aversion to taste , just as the preference for sweet is innate. Small children up to about three years of age do not react to smells that adults describe as nauseating - such as those of feces or sweat.

Urine sample

One research approach assumes that human disgust is inherent in genes, but that the objects of disgust are determined by the respective culture and are variable. Since the disgust reaction is not an innate instinct, it is learned from others, especially the parents, in the course of socialization and is culturally influenced. The principle is: "Disgust yourself with the things that are considered disgusting in the society in which you live!" From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense especially with regard to nutrition, since the food supply is not identical in every living space and is different has also constantly changed in the course of evolution. Obviously animal products have the greatest potential for disgust worldwide, in contrast to plants and inanimate objects.

All over the world there is a typical facial expression for expressing disgust: the nose is wrinkled and the upper lip is drawn up while the corners of the mouth go down, and in cases of severe disgust the tongue is also slightly stuck out. Physiologically, there is often a gag reflex , salivation and nausea with nausea, in extreme cases a sharp drop in blood pressure and fainting. The sensitivity to disgust varies from person to person. It is possible to suppress or overcome disgust, which plays an important role in medical professions or undertakers, for example, but here too there are great individual differences.

For what purpose the ability to disgust developed in the course of evolution is not clear. Some scientists like Paul Rozin believe that a strong defensive reaction to inedible substances is the origin of the emotion. The psychologist Anne Schienle also suspects that the disgust arose in connection with the gag reflex, which is used to prevent the ingestion of inedible or harmful food (see also evolutionary emotion research ). According to this theory, disgust reactions were later extended to include substances such as body products and smells as a protective mechanism.

Corpses, open wounds, body products such as feces, urine or pus, the smell of spoiled food and certain animals such as worms and rats or forms of development such as maggots are most frequently described as nauseating worldwide. The degree of feelings of disgust towards these objects differs in different cultures and, according to cultural scholars in Europe, was much less pronounced in earlier times than it is today.

Synthetic mucus ( Slime )

Scientific experiments show that associations play an essential role in the development of feelings of disgust. Many study participants refused to eat soup that had been stirred with a brand-new comb. Orange juice, which was offered in a new sterile urine bottle, also caused disgust. The same goes for chocolate pudding, which was served in the form of dog poop on the plate - many did not want to eat it, even though they knew it was pudding. The feelings of disgust were demonstrably not triggered by the quality of the food, but only by the negative associations with objects or objects.

According to most researchers, real disgust reactions cannot be observed in animals, although they react clearly to unpleasant taste stimuli and most animal species can vomit uncomfortable things through a gag reflex, just like humans. As with many people, feeling sick after consuming a food leads to the development of a permanent disgust for that food. A similar effect was observed in an experiment on wolves and coyotes fed prepared sheep meat, which caused severe nausea. As soon as these animals saw sheep afterwards, they fled or showed typical submission behavior. Some researchers interpret this pronounced avoidance behavior as disgust, while others see it as conditioning due to the experimentally induced taste aversion.


Charles Darwin

The first scientific statements on disgust come from Charles Darwin as part of his work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His definition was: “[…] something revolting, primarily in relation to the sense of taste, as actually perceived or vividly imagined; and secondarily to anything which causes a similar feeling, through the sense of smell, touch and even of eyesight ”(“ something disgusting, especially in connection with the sense of taste, actually perceived or imagined; moreover, towards everything that has a similar feeling caused by smell, touch or sight ”). Darwin was the first to describe the universally common facial expressions that are characteristic of disgust. He assumed that the disgust reaction is an innate instinct and is already present in infants, as these already react to unpleasant taste stimuli with this facial expression. Darwin saw disgust as an evolutionary development of the vomiting stimulus; the typical facial expression is a leftover from it and is used to communicate with others to warn them about inedible foods.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud interprets disgust as a defense mechanism, as a tendency towards neurotic symptom of the repression of archaic instinctual impulses and as a result of upbringing, especially early childhood “cleanliness education”. At the same time, he sees an ambivalence between disgust and pleasure , since the disgusting object would undoubtedly create a feeling of pleasure. According to Freud, this emotion is therefore in the service of the ego and the superego . This original pleasure, for example the positive relationship to one's own feces, is only lived out in adults in the case of perversions , where feelings of pleasure again suppress disgust. Freud regards the sense of smell as an essential trigger for feelings of disgust; his statements about this are limited to the topic of sexuality and body excretions.

Aurel Kolnai

In 1929 Aurel Kolnai wrote a detailed essay entitled Der Ekel , which appeared in the Yearbook for Philosophy and Phenomenological Research . For him, this is a defensive reaction that is primarily directed against the organic, but also has a moral dimension. Kolnai describes disgust as ambivalent emotional excitement, since the triggering objects were not only repulsive, but also attracted attention. “Disgust”, so Kolnai, “is more than increased displeasure, but less and different from hatred; Disgust [...] is closer to the body than all other forms of defense and turning away; Disgust is therefore something other than moral contempt and almost an antithesis to fear. [...] In disgust, no threat is perceptible, just an unbearable nuisance [...]. "

The eatery plays a subordinate role at Kolnai. He ascribes much more importance to the senses of smell, sight and touch than to taste. Kolnai uses the term "feeling sick" for the reaction to excessive eating and drinking, but also for idleness . Kolnai sees all forms of putrefaction and putrefaction as the primary object of disgust , and therefore excrement is also disgusting. He explains disgusting reactions to insects with the optical impression of crowds and negative associations such as insidiousness and malice. In addition, wild vegetation is also disgusting. Kolnai also lists a number of perceived immoral behaviors that he associates with disgust. Kolnai's statements are not neutral in terms of value and are not scientifically objective. Penning points out that he was writing from the perspective of a conservative Catholic around 1930.

Salvador Dalí was impressed by Kolnai's The Disgust . In an essay published in 1932 for This Quarter magazine , the painter strongly recommended the text to the other Surrealists and highlighted its analytical method as worthy of emulation. "Traces of the pictures, examples and observations" Kolnais can be found "in many of Dalí's paintings, including the film Un chien andalou ."

In her review of Kolnais since 2007 in the volume Ekel, Haß, Hochmut. On the phenomenology of hostile feelings, again in German accessible essay, Susanne Mack points out that “In his view, disgust is caused by a fundamental aversion, i.e. fear, the fear of human beings of dying, of putrefaction and decay processes The reason for the future decomposition of one's own body. "

Julia Kristeva

The French psychologist and literary scholar Julia Kristeva made her mark in 1980 in her book Pouvoirs de l'horreur. Essai sur l'abjection used the term "abjection" (rejection) or "abject" in connection with the phenomenon of disgust, whereby she does not refer to the triggering objects, but the relationship between a person and them and their coping strategy. So it is not spiders that are “abject” with her, but fear of them. According to Kristeva, the abject and thus also the disgust confronts the ego with its limits and its fears and thus fulfills an important function in that it enables the distinction between "the self" and "the other" in the first place. She sees abjection as part of the detachment from the mother, associating sticky, slimy, and diffuse substances with the maternal. According to Kristeva, exclusion and taboos are phenomena of abjection that are intended to secure certain boundaries, rules or systems. Where it is not possible to exclude something completely, there are certain cleansing rituals in all cultures with the aim of catharsis . Art also takes on this cathartic function.

Paul Rozin

The American psychologist Paul Rozin has been studying the phenomenon of disgust since the 1980s; his explanations are based on theories of evolutionary biology and emotional psychology . Rozin assumes that the food-related disgust is the evolutionary origin of this emotion and therefore calls it “core disgust” (basic disgust). It then developed from feelings of disgust towards animals to “interpersonal disgust” and “moral disgust”. The fact that nausea and nausea are major side effects of disgust, according to Rozin, suggests that it was originally a purely oral defense reaction to protect the body from unsuitable food.

According to studies by Rozin, there is a relatively high correlation between parents and children in a family when it comes to sensitivity to disgust. Like Freud, he assumes that early childhood toilet training (toilet training) is one of the first learning experiences for developing disgust.

According to Rozin, disgust in modern society serves primarily to repress our genetic relationship with animals; “Animal behavior” in humans is generally rated as disgusting, although the definition for it has been developed in the course of civilization. This assessment has been extended to behavior that is classified as immoral. Disgust therefore also fulfills a social function and serves to distinguish it from other social groups and cultures. "[...] disgust is in many respects the emotion of civilization" (German: disgust is in many ways the emotion of civilization). The central thesis of Rozin is: “A mechanism for avoiding harm to the body became a mechanism for avoiding harm to the soul. The elicitors of disgust may have expanded to the point that they have in common only the fact that decent people want nothing to do with them. At this level, disgust becomes a moral emotion and a powerful form of negative socialization. ”(Eng: A mechanism to avoid harm to the body became a mechanism to avoid harm to the soul. The disgust triggers may have multiplied to the point that their only commonality is that decent people want nothing to do with it. At this level disgust becomes a moral emotion and a powerful form of negative socialization.)

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman understands the expression of emotions following Darwin as part of affect programs, which are basic general human and cross-cultural, unconscious complex reaction mechanisms that were associated with typical patterns of facial expressions. He differentiates between seven basic types: joy, sadness, contempt, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

Similar basic types are still used as a basis by many emotion philosophers and psychologists. However, in particular, disgust is being excluded from the actual emotions and treated as a feeling by many, because it is clearly not a cognitive attitude but a primitive body reaction.

Richard Lazarus

Richard Lazarus does not understand emotions like William James and Carl Lange (see James Lange Theory ) as body changes, since they also included cognitive attitudes towards objects and events; So it is about assessing the relationship to the environment. He differentiates between six dimensions: reference to one's own goals, agreement or violation of these, inclusion of specific self-centered attitudes, attribution of responsibility, assessment of one's own reaction skills and related future expectations with regard to achievable agreement with one's own objectives. In this context, he explains disgust as related to an indigestible object or, in a metaphorical sense, an idea or conception of the same kind that is absorbed or judged to be too close.

The current emotional-philosophical debate continues to revolve around the question of how physical versus cognitive aspects are to be weighted - whereby a distinction is often made between feelings and emotions, only certain types of emotions are emphasized as application classes and, for example, also compatible approaches that promise to reconcile both aspects , worked out and defended as if attacked by others.

Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha Nussbaum observes that, especially since the 1990s, there have been increasing recourse to feelings of disgust in connection with legal issues, similar to the way early American laws on homosexuality invoked disgust for “unnatural sinfulness”. (P. Rozin also defines disgust as directed at actions “against nature”.) In the legal context, however, according to Martha Nussbaum's moral-psychological thesis, disgust is an irrational cognitive reaction: Individuals perceive their physical imperfection (“animalism”) by being project this outward as a fear of “contamination”. Historically, this has led to the oppression of social groups (especially women, Jews and homosexuals).

Current research

Scientific research into the phenomenon of disgust is ongoing. In the brain, disgust is localized in the limbic system . This is where the so-called amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex are activated in the event of feelings of disgust or fear . These are the results of examinations using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) . The amygdala decides on the basis of previous experience whether a stimulus is to be classified as harmful to the organism or not. The stimulus evaluation can be changed by new experiences and new evaluations. If the corresponding brain regions are specifically stimulated during an operation, nausea and gag reflexes occur as in real disgust. The activation of the corresponding regions simply by observing disgusted people has also been proven in scientific experiments.

In 2004, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine , led by Val Curtis, published the results of a study of the most common universally disgusting triggers and concluded that disgust was not a learning experience, but genetic. Most of the substances or objects that are perceived as disgusting have in common that they are related to illness and infections such as feces, pus or corpses. The biological function of disgust is to protect against disease and death.

Curtis proposes that it is not possible to develop disgust for any object, such as candy or oranges. And contrary to the statements of cultural scholars, she assumes that expressions of disgust such as "yuck" were among the earliest words people used to say. The survey was carried out solely on the basis of photos that could be seen on a website and were intended to be judged according to disgust. The correspondence of the answers with facial expressions and physical reactions could therefore not be determined.

Also in 2004, the University of Arkansas published study results, which should show that there are two main causes of disgust: on the one hand the fear of dirt and disease, on the other hand the fear of death and injury. The feelings of disgust protect on the one hand physically against spoiled food and the risk of infection, on the other hand psychologically against the memory of human mortality.

Recent studies on neurobiology indicate that experiences of injustice and unfairness also cause disgusting reactions.

Studies have shown a connection between the outbreak of herpes labialis and previous disgust. In 2004, researchers at the University of Trier were able to prove that the sight of potentially disgusting images in people who are sensitive to disgust can weaken the cellular immune system and thus lead to the outbreak of herpes simplex. In addition, when there is strong disgust, the stress hormone cortisol is released, which also weakens the cellular immune defense.

In 2003, the German psychologist Anne Schienle used a questionnaire to determine the sensitivity of 85 students to disgust and, at the same time, their tendency to have eating disorders . According to their findings, women with signs of an eating disorder show a significantly higher sensitivity to disgust than others, especially when assessing body excretions and spoiled food. This increased tendency to disgust was also present before an eating disorder broke out.

An experiment carried out at the University of Groningen, which was published in 2012, showed that sexual arousal leads to a temporary decrease in sensitivity to disgust.

Empirical studies have shown a connection between disgust and fear of death. If you remind people of their death, they react more sensitively to disgust triggers and prefer to separate human nature from animal nature. Conversely, contact with disgust triggers increases thoughts of death. More disgusting people are more sensitive to stimuli associated with death and are more anxious to avoid thoughts of death.

Disgust and food choices

While taste preferences and aversions are already present in newborns, so that they prefer sweet things and reject bitter ones, disgust reactions are learned in the course of childhood and are therefore a product of socialization and upbringing. A meta-study of 50 cases of wolf children who grew up outside of a human community serves as evidence that disgust is learned . All children had food preferences and aversions, but none showed disgusting reactions.

Black charred sheep's heads are a delicacy in the Faroe Islands

Differentiating it from disgust for potential food is an aversion, which is always based on a concrete experience with the food in question and mostly relates to taste or smell. The boundaries are fluid, however, because violent aversions can trigger disgust reactions such as nausea and nausea. If nausea occurs a short time later after eating a meal, the person concerned usually develops disgust for the food, even if the nausea has other causes. This effect comes about through classic conditioning . The food is associated with the negative experience of nausea, making the food a conditioned cue for nausea. The psychologist Martin Seligman described this mechanism as the “ sauce béarnaise syndrome ”. He vomited a short time after dinner where he had a fillet with bearnaise sauce . Although he knew the cause was gastrointestinal flu , he developed a permanent disgust for the sauce, but not for the meat. “The taste of a dish that has been eaten half a lifetime without unpleasant aftermath is evidently quite immune to the learned aversion.” From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense if one assumes that the disgust serves to prevent people from consuming toxic substances to hold. Something that has been proven safe in the past does not need to be avoided.

Paul Rozin considers “magical thinking”, as it is expressed in the sentence “You are what you eat”, to be a major cause of food rejections. In 1987, he conducted a study of college students asking them to attribute traits to people based on how they ate. The result showed that the majority of the participants assigned characteristics of the allegedly eaten animals to the people. In this sense, some vegetarians also argue that meat eaters are generally more aggressive than plant eaters. According to Rozin, the moralization of eating habits also promotes feelings of disgust, as evidenced by the different attitudes of moral and health-conscious vegetarians. Something similar can be found in connection with the moral rejection of smoking and disgusting reactions to smokers, cigarette ash, etc. Such an effect can be desirable, on which, for example, the consumption of food as aphrodisiacs is based, but it can also be undesirable if a food is considered contaminated or simply “bad”. According to Rozin, the “law of contagion” and the “law of similars” apply to food selection. “A disgusting object contaminates everything it touches, no matter how brief the contact is [...] Behind the refusal to take a drink that has been stirred with a fly swatter or into which a germ-free cockroach is dipped, lies the intuition that invisible contaminating particles [...] have got into it. [...] others, like a dog poop made of chocolate, are considered unclean out of mere resemblance. "

With the help of role models, toddlers learn what is edible and what is not. Until they are around two years old, they generally consider everything to be edible and are not disgusted with anything. In the following years they prefer dishes that they already know or that are similar to the known dishes. They only show disgust reactions between the ages of four and eight years. Before that, they only refuse food because of its taste, negative experiences (nausea) or known warnings about its dangerousness to health.

“The eating culture defines a coarse grid for each individual, within which taste preferences can be developed. Exceeding the rough grid is socially discriminated in the educational process (“You don't eat that!”). After socialization within a food culture, the coarse grid is internalized through learning experiences in such a way that even unintentional exceedances [...] are reacted with disgust and discomfort (someone learns, for example, that they have just eaten dog meat ). ”When it comes to eating, ethnocentrism plays an important role Role: Your own eating culture is considered “right”, and eating cultures that deviate from it are “wrong”. Feelings of disgust also serve to prevent us from crossing and violating cultural boundaries, which would also call into question the status of group membership. Food taboos are the strongest form of collectively effective eating rules. Most of them, however, are not based on feelings of disgust, rather the disgust is a consequence of taboos .

In many national or regional kitchens, dishes are valued as specialties that are considered disgusting by non-cultural people. Some examples are Swedish surstromming , hákarl (rotten shark), millennial eggs , the consumption of insects ( entomophagy ), Scottish haggis , English black pudding (dish made from leftover meat, blood and fat), the overripe Sardinian cheese Casu Marzu with maggots, but also Tripe , Palatine Saumagen , Munsterland kettchen or Hamburg Labskaus .

Labskaus with fried egg, cucumber and rollmops

Not all “disgusting dishes” are valued by the entire population of the respective country or region, some are mainly eaten by men as a “delicacy”. Since the smell of putrefaction or putrefaction is universally considered nauseating, it can be assumed that eating “rotten” food always requires overcoming. Scientists have put forward the theory that dishes, which usually arouse disgust and disgust, are actually only eaten to confirm belonging to a group and at the same time to differentiate themselves from other groups. Icelanders emphasize, for example, their Viking descent with some dishes .

Vegetarians give different motives for not eating meat. In an online survey by the Friedrich Schiller University Jena among 2517 participants from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, disgust for meat was the ninth most frequently mentioned trigger for vegetarianism. 11 percent of the participants cited an aversion to the taste of meat as the most important reason for not giving up. This group was categorized by the authors as "emotional vegetarians". According to the evaluation, the so-called moral and emotional vegetarians were more disgusted with eating meat or preparing meat than health-motivated vegetarians. The same thing happened when looking at pictures with meat products.

The Australian sociologist Deborah Lupton explains the disgust for meat as follows:

"[...] meat inspires strong feelings of revulsion and disgust because of its origin in living animals [...] because it is the product of the death of animals, meat is also more strongly linked than any other food to rottenness and pollution."

"Meat triggers strong feelings of disgust and disgust because it originated in living animals [...] Because it is the product of animal death, meat is also more strongly associated with rotting and pollution than other foods."

- Deborah Lupton, sociologist, University of Sydney

Disgust and smells

Some smells are classified as universally nauseating by scientists, primarily those resulting from the decomposition of organic matter and putrefaction . If one disregards the reaction to the resulting irritating gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide , there are clear cultural differences in this area as well. A US research center that is working on the development of a special stink bomb as a weapon to be used against crowds of people has found only a few odors in laboratory tests with test persons from different cultures that could in principle be considered. The stench is said to be so disgusting that people react to it with severe physical nausea and panic, causing them to flee. So far, only extremely strong fecal and putrefactive odors have been considered promising.

Slight rotten smells, on the other hand, can also be perceived as pleasant if they are associated with food or musk . How people react to a smell mainly depends on the context and personal experience. The majority of researchers assume that the evaluation of smells is acquired culturally. “[…] Smell is in the nose of the smeller, but also in the culture of the smeller.” (German: smell is in the nose of the smellor, but also in the culture of the smellor. ) In laboratory tests with unnamed odor samples There are very different reactions to the same sample: “Some test persons who do not know what they are sniffing think the smell of vomit is cheese - delicious cheese. Some find the smell of burned human flesh terrible, others associate a nice barbecue. ”This is an indication that disgust arises in the head and not in the olfactory cells .

This is proven by a study by the University of Oxford in 2005. Twelve male participants smelled an artificially produced odor sample, which was once referred to as cheddar cheese and once as body odor. The alleged cheese smell was described as relatively pleasant, the alleged body odor as rather unpleasant. In a further experiment, the participants perceived a cheese smell even if a completely odorless sample with fresh air was announced as “cheese”.

Cut camembert

In various cultures, the smell of certain fermented or moldy foods is considered delicate, while the same smell from another source is perceived as disgusting. “We can definitely like a putrid smell - as long as we think it's that of ripe cheese. But even the memory of 'cheese feet' can destroy this benevolence. ”The author Pierre Boisard puts forward the thesis that Camembert is not eaten in spite of, but rather because of its strong smell. Eating overripe cheese enables adults, in a socially acceptable form, to enjoy a smell that is otherwise taboo in our society if it is related to faeces.

Clearly perceptible body odors of others are regarded in our culture as repulsive and in extreme cases as disgusting, especially the smell of sweat , but also bad breath . The sociologist Georg Simmel has an explanation for these violent defensive reactions: “The fact that we smell someone's atmosphere is the most intimate perception of them; it penetrates into our innermost senses in an airy form, so to speak, and it is obvious that with increased irritability against olfactory impressions this must lead to a selection and a distancing [...]. ”Simmel assumes that odor perception generally decreases in modern societies, while at the same time the smells that are still perceived attract increased attention, especially those that are perceived as unpleasant.

Actual or supposed body odors are also used to differentiate oneself from other social groups, nationalities or cultures, to underpin negative stereotypes or to evoke aversions . Both certain groups of people and members of other nations are sometimes ascribed bad smells. "It can be assumed that a factually existing or merely ascribed bad smell [...] serves to justify processes of devaluation, expulsion and stigmatization [...]." In the Franco-Prussian War , the assertion that the Germans stink belonged to the French side propaganda . French chroniclers reported that after the capitulation of Metz in 1870, all residents covered their noses when the German regiments marched in. Neither the sour smell of the English nor the rancid smell of the "negroes" or the sweet smell of the Asians would be as repugnant as the smell of the Germans.

To reinforce this olfactory judgment, some French doctors wrote scientific-sounding treatises on the general bromhidrosis of the German population, which leads to strong body exhalations. In 1915 a doctor declared that the “urotoxic coefficient” of urine was significantly increased in Germans, and since their kidneys were overloaded, excretion also took place via other parts of the body. "You can express this by saying that Germans urinate through their feet."

It is still not scientifically clear whether different ethnic groups actually have different body odors. The most noticeable odor is the armpit sweat substance androstenone . It is now considered certain that not all ethnicities have the same number of sweat glands . “Koreans have almost no apocrine sweat glands and therefore almost no body odor; The Chinese have few, the Japanese have more, whites even more, and blacks most. In addition, some food habits leave their traces in sweat [...] Europeans and Americans were considered bata-kusai , 'butter stinkers ' [...] by the Japanese . “The use of different spices in different cultures, for example garlic , has an objectively measurable influence on body odors, but also that Constant handling of strongly smelling products, for example by fishermen. In this respect, clear intercultural differences can also be assumed.

Interpersonal disgust

Feelings of disgust can also be directed against other people, and these are often reactions to body odors, but also to unwanted physical closeness, especially from strangers. However, there is also disgust and defensive reactions to objects that have been used by others. Many people refuse to eat from a plate that someone else has previously used, to wear clothes from second-hand shops or to sit on a chair that is still warm that someone else has been sitting on before.

Rozin has shown in a study that the rejection of foreign clothes has something to do with magical thinking , namely with the subconscious idea that they have the properties of the previous wearer. American students were more willing to wear the cleaned sweater of a healthy stranger than that of a sick or amputated man, or that of a murderer. The idea of ​​wearing a piece of clothing by Adolf Hitler was also strongly rejected. The implication is that disgust in modern societies not only has the function of protecting the body from "contamination", but also the psyche.

In some cultures, interpersonal disgust plays a more important role than "basic disgust", for example in Hinduism , which requires believers to strictly avoid any physical contact with members of lower castes . The touch of a food by an "unclean" person makes the whole food unclean.

Cultural history

Carrying students around 1750. It was not considered offensive to throw up in the presence of others. The corresponding vessel was shared.

Disgust is not a cultural-historical constant, not even within a cultural area. In his work On the Process of Civilization , the sociologist Norbert Elias has shown that today's European ideas of “decent behavior” have developed over the course of centuries since the Middle Ages and that their manifestation is part of a social process in the course of which control physical needs became more and more important. This process began with the nobility and gradually became the standard for society as a whole. Elias shows on the basis of sources, especially table breeding , that feelings of shame and embarrassment increase significantly over the centuries, which corresponds to an increase in sensitivity to disgust.

The nobility did not use handkerchiefs until modern times, before it was common practice to blow one's nose with one's hands and then wipe them on one's clothes. The tablecloth, which was only available to the nobility, was often used, but in the 15th century it was already considered to be crude. When eating, you should blow your nose with your left hand because you ate with your right hand (the fork was only gradually introduced in the 16th century).

In a medieval table breed it is said “do not spit over or on the table” and “do not spit into the basin when you wash your hands”. Spitting itself is not objected to, not even in the presence of others or while eating. It was considered decent to spit under the table or behind you. Regular spitting out of saliva was thought to be absolutely necessary. In the 17th century it was inappropriate to spit on the ground in front of people of higher standing, in the 18th century the use of a handkerchief and a certain amount of discretion were required. In the house, spittoons were common among the upper classes . In the 19th century an English etiquette reads: “Spitting is at all times a disgusting habit” (spitting is a disgusting habit at all times).

According to Elias, hygiene ideas have nothing to do with the increasing taboo on spitting, as this is rarely given as a reason. “So the feelings of embarrassment and disgust about the secretion of the sputum [...] increase long before one has any clear idea of ​​the transmission of certain germs through the sputum. [...] The motivation out of social considerations is there long before the motivation through scientific insights. ”The sensitivity to body excretions of others had obviously increased over the centuries. In many Asian countries, however, spitting in public is still common today and does not cause disgust.

Antique communal toilet in Ostia Antica

Other body exudates were also not considered disgusting for a long time. It was quite common at all stands to relieve themselves in public, as evidenced by sources. In a text by Erasmus of Rotterdam it says “Incivile est eum salutare, qui reddit urinam aut alvum exonerat […]” (it is impolite to greet someone who is urinating or relieving himself). He describes the rules to suppress flatulence that were emerging at this time in the 16th century as inappropriate, as this is not healthy. In the early 17th century, defecation is expected to take place in secret without witnesses. However, this does not yet apply to emperors and kings who regularly granted audiences sitting on the so-called chair as a special show of favor .

In 1729 a French author then declares: "Il est très incivil de laisser sortir des vents de son Corps, soit par haut, soit par bas, quand mesme ce seroit sans faire aucun bruit, lorsqu'on est en compagnie [...]." It is very uncivilized to let air escape from your body in the presence of others, be it upwards or downwards, even if it happens silently). Elias notes an increasing sensitivity in dealing with all instinctual expressions, whereby the newly introduced rules of behavior initially primarily had the function of social differentiation, the differentiation of the socially superior from the "people".

In general, odor tolerance was significantly higher in Europe in earlier times than it is today, and for a long time no particular attention was paid to smells. The French historian Alain Corbin describes the situation in Paris at the time of Rousseau : “[...] the excrement collects everywhere, in the avenues, at the foot of the barriers, in the cabs. The sewer drainers pollute the streets; To save yourself the trip to the Schindanger , simply tip the bins into the gutter. [...] The fulling mills and white tanneries also do their part to increase the odor of urine. The facades of Parisian houses are decomposed by urine. "

Smell and stench only became a public theme in the 18th century. “From the middle of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, a process intensified [...] which Alain Corbin calls the 'olfactory revolution', a fundamental change in the perception, evaluation and interpretation of smells. A characteristic […] is the growing collective sensitivity to smells of all kinds. Although the intensity and penetrance of the smells had not changed compared to earlier epochs, the tolerance threshold sank almost suddenly, and everything that […] was previously considered normal - the smells of the The body, the living quarters and the city, [...] the smell of faeces and manure, stinking mountains of rubbish etc. - was now perceived as unbearable. "

Depiction of a butcher's shop, painting by Pieter Aertsen , 16th century.

The background to the new sensitivity to smell and the associated disgust reactions were the emerging scientific miasma theory and the assumption that strong smells are carriers of pathogens, i.e. smell alone could cause illness. This led to a fundamental change in the concept of cleanliness and hygiene and to striving to “purify” the air. At the same time, there was an aversion to the perception of body odors, both one's own and that of others. Since the upper classes, in contrast to the "common people", succeeded in largely eliminating their own odor or drowning it out by using fragrances , body odor became a social distinguishing feature.

The slaughter of farm animals and their processing into meat and sausage products basically took place in public for centuries, both in the countryside and in the cities. Hardly anyone took offense at the sight. It was not until the 19th century that slaughterhouses were relocated to the outskirts of cities, which, according to sociologists, was related to an increased sensitivity to disgust. At around the same time, it also becomes unusual to serve prepared animals whole and only to carve them on the table . A French cookery book from 1894 states: “Because a clever decoration or refined cooking method conceals the cruel appearance of pieces of meat, the art of cooking certainly contributes to a refinement of morals. Compare what I have called the 'nations of bloody dishes' […] with the 'nations of sauces' […] and then see whether the latter is not also the more civilized. "

Disgust in literature


The ancient Latin poetry contains a whole series of nauseating descriptions, often in connection with armed conflict, even if there is no Latin term that corresponds exactly to this emotion. There is the term fastidium with the meaning of weariness , taedium with the connotation of extreme boredom and nausea for physical nausea .

While Virgil largely dispenses with drastic effects, they appear in Ovid , but almost exclusively in his work Metamorphoses . During a battle of Centaurs he describes various wounds and mutilations in great detail. "With Seneca , the portrayal of horror in Roman poetry reaches its first climax." Seneca is a stoic ; it is the task of the descriptions for him to make clear the imperturbability of his heroes, who cannot be overcome even by disgust. The recurring motif in his tragedies is the injury and destruction of the human body. The most drastic scenes can be found in his work Thyestes . The highlight is the sacrificial slaughter of the sons of Atreus and the description of how they are prepared as a meal.

“No other work in Roman literature is so rich in gruesome and disgusting parts as the Pharsalia Lukans . […] Lukan's historical epic appears almost as a collecting basin […] of Roman tradition of horror. ”The battle of Pharsalus and the fall of the Roman Republic are depicted . Two sections are devoted to the decomposition of corpses, and it also contains a detailed description of gruesome death scenarios as a result of snake bites, and the like. a. the gradual dissolution of a body. The works of Statius and Silius Italicus indulge a little less in gruesome motifs and in this respect tie in more with Ovid.

Modern literature

Motifs of the disgusting can also be found later in premodern literature, but more in the form of the grotesque . An example is Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais , where urine, feces and body secretions play a role. However, the writer does not want to provoke disgust with this, but strives for the "effect of a liberating laugh". The literary treatment of these motifs changes based on Voltaire , who in Candide deliberately depicts the ugly and repulsive as a counter-image to the idea of theodicy , in which evil always has a meaning. A quote: “When he went for a walk the following day, he met a beggar covered over and over with boils, with extinguished eyes, a gnawed nose, a crooked mouth and black stumps of teeth who had to gurgle hoarsely at every word; terrible fits of coughing tormented him, each time he spat out a tooth. "

Frontispiece of the Les Épaves collection by Charles Baudelaire

The break with the tradition of the “fine arts” can also be found in Heinrich von Kleist . “ Penthesilea (1808) is the first great linguistic work of art of literary extremism. The drama no longer wants to arouse fear and pity, but rather provokes catharsis through disgust. [...] Later authors of the 19th century, especially the Romantics , were wary of the extreme [...]. "

The literary direction of naturalism dealt with social problems and also represented illness, alcoholism and physical degeneration , motives of disgust were accepted as a means of provocation and criticism. The leading figure was Émile Zola , the most important German representative was Gerhart Hauptmann .

In France, Georges Bataille , Charles Baudelaire , the Comte de Lautréamont , Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud were among the modern writers who sometimes drastically represented taboo in their works. They treat repulsive things for their own sake, in order to describe life in its “brutality and animality”. Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal sparked a scandal and led to a criminal case.

Representatives of Expressionism such as Gottfried Benn , Georg Trakl and Hans Henny Jahnn also focus on the effects of disgust . “In aesthetic terms, the extremist specializes in the destruction of literary norms and linguistic rules. Paired with his eccentric language is the preference for taboo or popular things [...] ”. In his poems, Trakl addresses decay, decomposition and death, as does the medic Benn. Jahnn's drama Pastor Ephraim Magnus (1919) “is a strange repository of atrocities and horrors that are unparalleled in view of the extreme accumulation of topics such as necrophilia , cannibalism, castration, blasphemy , incest and putrefaction. [...] As explicitly as nowhere else after Penthesilea , Jahnn's drama is based on the anti-aesthetic effect of disgust. "

Disgust is also a key term in Friedrich Nietzsche's work Also sprach Zarathustra . Zarathustra is here a forerunner of the expected superman and as such a person without disgust, it is said. In one scene, however, he confronts his “most profound thoughts” and then breaks out into the exclamation: “Disgust, disgust, disgust - woe to me!” Again and again in this piece disgusting is thematized and it becomes “the entire metaphor of spitting, choking out "Vomiting including all faecal injuries - a whole world of ugh - tried hard." Overcoming all disgust is presented by Nietzsche as a goal to strive for. From numerous statements it emerges that the philosopher himself was very sensitive to disgust, which he reinterprets euphemistically as "hypersensitivity". "The disgust for the common, common lowlands of the human is already to be found in Nietzsche's early work, as is the transfer of disgust from the physiological to the moral world." He writes at one point: "I have a completely uncanny irritability of cleanliness. Instinct, so that I [...] perceive the innermost, the 'bowels' of every soul physiologically - smell [...] If I have observed correctly, such natures which are not conducive to my cleanliness feel the caution of my disgust on their part too [...] The disgust of people, the 'rabble' was always my greatest danger [...]. "

The writer Franz Kafka has expressed himself in private letters and notes about personal feelings of disgust. This emotion plays a role as a motif in his story The Metamorphosis , in which the protagonist transforms himself into an insect overnight, to which the family reacts with horror and increasing disgust.

Disgust is a common theme in German-language literature of the 20th century, especially among Austrian authors. "The staging of the ugly and repulsive, which has become a central theme of literary modernity since the poetry of Charles Baudelaire [...], is represented in a virtually unprecedented manner in Austrian literature of the twentieth century." Typical representatives are Thomas Bernhard , Josef Winkler , Werner Schwab and Elfriede Jelinek . In her works there are numerous taboos broken, represented by the means of "violent rhetoric" (excitable speech) , which also wants to attack the body of the reader.

The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a novel called The Disgust (La nausée) , which is considered the main literary work of existentialism . The protagonist's disgust is essentially directed against the assumed futility and uncertainty of any existence. Designations for this to a certain extent purely spiritual disgust are existence disgust or world disgust . The described feelings of the main character Antoine Roquentin are, however, assigned to melancholy in psychology and occur among other things in depressed people . "From an existential analysis perspective, melancholy can be described as follows: on the one hand, as a person's alienation from himself, others and things, [...] on the other hand, as an inhibition of becoming, that is, as a modification of the relationship to time, the aging ." This alienation is an essential feature of Roquentin's state of mind. Sartre originally wanted to call the novel Melancholia as well.

In 2008, the novel Feuchtgebiete by the German writer Charlotte Roche sparked a discussion about the term disgust in the German-language feature pages because of its explicit description of body excretions, in which the publicist Roger Willemsen took part.

Staged disgust

Not only beautiful things, but also terrifying and grotesque things have always been depicted in literature and art, although not necessarily with the aim of arousing disgust. “In naturalism and expressionism , the representations of the disgusting [...] are directed against the beautiful appearance of classical art. The aesthetics of beauty was contrasted with that of the ugly with a provocative intention [...]. ”In the newly emerging theory of aesthetics in the 18th century, the ugly and disgusting were initially completely excluded.

According to Freud's psychology , disgust is an ambivalent emotion, based on the infant's original interest in faeces, which it is only weaned off with the help of socialization . In this way, the former “pleasure object” is transformed into an object of displeasure and disgust. In the layers of the unconscious , however , the repressed fascination remains and shows up again and again in a masked form, according to this theory. “ Masochistic personalities do something very much like readers or viewers of artistic representations of the terrible or disgusting. You are almost magically attracted to unpleasant objects. The hidden source of pleasure lies here [...] in the satisfaction of a more or less conscious need for punishment against forbidden wishes and impulses. ”The indulgence staged disgust in the field of art is socially accepted. Public outrage about taboo violations is generally directed only against the respective artist, not against the recipient. The audience exposes themselves to the disgusting voluntarily and for a limited period of time, so that a certain inner distance can be built up, especially in the area of ​​film, theater or painting.

According to Thomas Anz, "disgusting art" also fulfills other (unconscious) needs. "Fantasies about collective catastrophes of apocalyptic proportions, which in the history of art and literature are often accompanied by disgusting fantasies, correspond in the tradition of religious apocalypses to moral and aggressive needs at the same time."

Modern art

The conscious provocation of feelings of disgust is a means of various directions in modern art and is mainly used in performances . Disgust is often triggered by the use of body fluids and products that are declared to be "artificial materials". In doing so, social taboos are violated. The so-called Viennese Actionism was known for this . Also, body art as a form of performance art and Eat Art set partially Ekeleffekte a targeted manner. According to their own admission, the artists want to express a protest attitude towards social constraints and values.

The Viennese actionists declared, among other things, that they were striving for a special intensity of expression and overwhelming viewers, which could only be achieved through direct physical use. The best-known appearance of the group in a lecture hall at the University of Vienna in 1968 consisted of urinating, defecating and vomiting in public and singing the Austrian national anthem in between. The aim was to show “that the people are more upset with a lot of shit than with all reports about the Vietnam War that was fought at the time .” In the years that followed, Hermann Nitsch achieved the greatest degree of awareness of the Viennese actionists, and above all in his performances Let animal blood flow. He had animals slaughtered in public and then smeared canvases and people with blood and innards. He also created "poured pictures" by running blood on canvas. At the beginning of the 1970s, Nitsch turned primarily to the theater and since then has regularly performed so-called "orgy-mystery games". He has written an extensive theoretical treatise on his art and refers to the theories of Sigmund Freud . The aim of his performances is the dissolution of neuroses and a catharsis .

Paul McCarthy's performances are influenced by Viennese actionism and focus specifically on disgusting effects. In 1975, for example, his video Sailor's Meat was made , in which McCarthy acted with a blonde woman's wig and panties and smeared himself for 28 minutes with the help of ketchup, mayonnaise and raw meat, which he first chewed and then spat out again. He also fiddled with a dildo , which he dipped into the mayonnaise. Self-soiling is a stylistic device of body art . "When McCarthy mixes his own excretions with typical American products such as ketchup, mayonnaise, body cream or hot dogs to create a hideous sauce, he is attacking society's ideas about cleanliness."

Excrement is often used in "disgusting art". The Merda d'artista ("artist shit ") by Piero Manzoni is particularly well known . In May 1961 he allegedly filled 90 tin cans with his own feces, numbered and signed them and offered them for the equivalent of 30 grams of gold. The cans have a high collector's value today, although it is unclear what the content actually consists of. The disgust is based solely on the imagination. Wim Delvoye constructed a mechanical object called a cloaca that simulates the digestive process with the help of bio-reactors in a deceptively real way and, after being fed with food, excretes artificial excrement that corresponds to chemically real feces and also smells like that. These excretions are now also being bought by collectors.

Dead animals are also used in modern art to provoke and trigger feelings of disgust. Damien Hirst soaks animal carcasses in formaldehyde and exhibits them. The best-known object is a pickled tiger shark from the 1990s, which is now beginning to rot because it cannot be preserved permanently. The Austrian action artist Wolfgang Flatz caused quite a stir in the media in 2001 with an action called “Meat” when he had a dead cattle dropped from a helicopter in Berlin. Several fireworks exploded after the impact. During the action, Flatz was hanging from a construction crane in Christ pose. After his testimony, he wanted to point out the disturbed relationship of society to the subject of meat. The influence of Viennese actionism is clearly visible.

Decay, putrefaction, and putrefaction are also subjects of modern art. Dieter Roth deliberately had objects made from food moldy, as did the British Sam Taylor-Wood in a video in fast motion . Photo artists who consciously use disgusting effects are, for example, Joel-Peter Witkin and Cindy Sherman .

In his treatise on the theory of aesthetics, Theodor W. Adorno noted a general preference of modern art for the disgusting and physically disgusting. He sees it as a sign of the tendency to "sue" society and "denounce the world" through the demonstrative representation of what has been denied and repressed.

On February 6, 2020, the artist Theresa Schubert from Berlin ate roasted meat tissue previously removed from her thigh on a public stage in the Slovenian city of Ljubljana . The cannibalistic art action took place under the title mEat me . The artist, who is a vegetarian, cultivated this tissue in a nutrient solution from her own blood in Petri dishes . In May 2020, Theresa Schubert said in the TV show Kulturzeit on the TV broadcaster 3sat : “ I had to overcome myself a little bit to put this piece in my mouth and to chew and swallow it. Because it was just such an unusual taste [...] We could just leave the animals alone [...] If someone insists on eating meat, please eat yourselves. "

Modern theater

Hermann Nitsch has meanwhile mainly shifted his action art to the theater. He regularly performs the so-called orgy-mystery games in his own castle in Austria . a. slaughtered animals are eviscerated, accompanied by orchestral sounds. Nitsch integrates seemingly religious sacrificial rituals and elements of the Christian liturgy . In 2005 he was allowed to perform this play for the first time in the renowned Vienna Burgtheater .

The modern German directorial theater now also frequently uses blood and other body fluids, which has led theater critics to the formation of the catchphrase disgusting theater and, in the recent past, to a controversial discussion about German theater in which all national print media have participated. “At the moment there is a discussion about whether actors have to throw up, piss and masturbate too often on Germany's stages or do much more terrible things. That is 'disgusting theater'. ”The director Christoph Schlingensief is considered to be one of the“ pioneers ”of this direction. In 2006, the actors in Jürgen Gosch's Macbeth production smeared themselves with excrement and fake blood, and there were also performances on the big stages in Berlin and Hamburg in which blood and urine played an important role.

It is noticeable that productions in this style have so far only been available in the German-speaking area. The director Nicolas Stemann explains this with the self-image of the German theater, which sees itself as political: “For us, since Brecht, it has been about winning society over to political discourse and using the theater for this. Or since Schiller. ” Stephan Kimmig points out that more blood and violence can be seen in every crime scene than on the theater stage.

movie theater

In 1965 Roman Polański's film Repulsion was released in Germany under the title Ekel , but the English title better describes the content. The main character Carol cannot stand closeness and touch from men, her defense has phobic and neurotic traits and increases to hatred ; their feelings of disgust are part of their mental disorder. The viewer is disgusted by a chopped off rabbit's head that Carol puts in her handbag and a roast rabbit that slowly rots in the apartment.

Horror films often rely on disgust effects, outside of this genre they appear less often. In the 1960s, the so-called splatter was created as a special category , which is characterized by particularly excessive violence and is prohibited in many countries. In movies, too, disgust usually occurs when taboos are violated, although this does not always have to be shown explicitly. Cannibalism is very much a taboo, and films with scenes in which human flesh is eaten have long been considered scandalous per se. Examples are The Pigsty by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1968) and Weekend by Jean-Luc Godard (1967). In The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by Peter Greenaway (1989), cannibalism is just one of many taboos; here a man is finally prepared as a roast with vegetables and herbs.

In the black comedy The War of the Roses , a wife takes revenge on her husband, who has run over her cat, by letting him eat a pie that she uses to let him understand after the meal that she used his dog in it. The preparation cannot be seen. The director Fruit Chan from Hong Kong , who made a film with the title Public Toilet in 2002 and dumplings in 2004, has dealt with “disgusting issues” several times . Dumplings are Chinese dumplings. In Chan's film, a Chinese woman promises to help women achieve eternal beauty and youth with the help of her very special dumplings. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the filling consists essentially of aborted embryos. The film was not allowed to be shown in China. Chan indicated in an interview that the subject of the film has a real background.

The director Luis Buñuel has violated the taboos in society in many of his films with the repulsive and disgusting. He offers an ironic tip in his late work Das Gespenst der Freiheit : Here an evening party is shown sitting around a table and emptying themselves into toilets. In between, individuals apologize in order to stealthily take a bite in a cabinet.

The multi-part Mondo film series Faces of Death has also been the subject of controversy since it was released because of the depictions of violence, often with an authentic background.

In connection with the rating "nauseating", quite a few film critics also bring the Dutch horror film Human Centipede, which was released in 2009, to the point where the human centipede was released .

watch TV

Disgust is sometimes used deliberately in television programs. In 1973, the 12th episode of the series Ein Herz und ein Seele (A Heart and a Soul) caused a sensation with the main character "Disgust Alfred" with a foot bath in the potato bowl. Later, feelings of disgust caused in viewers played a role , especially in so-called reality shows . As early as 1996, the show Soldiers of Fortune made headlines. In Germany in 2004, the RTL show Ich bin ein Star - Get me out of here! for heated public discussions. The media spoke of "disgusting television"; the word creation came in 5th place in the vote for the word of the year . In this reality show, more or less prominent participants lived for some time in a camp in the Australian jungle, where they were filmed around the clock every day. The regular "tests of courage" ensured high ratings and fierce criticism. For example, Daniel Küblböck had to take a “bath” in a few thousand cockroaches for minutes . The show reached several million viewers and a market share of over 30 percent. Michael Konken , chairman of the German Association of Journalists , spoke of a “low point in television entertainment” and “voyeuristic perversion”, which would exceed the disgust limit.

Despite the criticism of the jungle camp, some time later RTL broadcast a format in which disgust also plays an important role: the show Fear Factor , which has been broadcast very successfully on the US broadcaster NBC since 2001 . The American candidates had to eat worms and cow eyes, were put in a container with snakes or covered with 400 rats. Similar programs are also broadcast in other countries, mostly with high ratings.

The series Autopsy - Mysterious Deaths on RTL II is a continuation of the "disgusting television" series . “Disguised as a documentary series about the work of criminologists and coroners, corpses of all kinds are presented, in every conceivable stage of decomposition and dissolution. […] And all of them are real. ”You can also see autopsies . With the main target group of 14 to 29 year olds, the program achieved a viewing rate of 13 percent. “Such an aggressive and public serial presentation of death, mortality and putrefaction is unlikely to have existed on television before.” According to publicist Oliver Pfohlmann, the interest of the audience consists of both pleasure in tension and “ voyeurism with sadistic elements ". The show is something like a "virtual test of courage".

Media researchers explain the general success of reality shows in a similar way. According to studies, these formats are particularly preferred by “people with voyeuristic tendencies”, regardless of the level of education. “With not anxious viewers, voyeurism leads to an intense entertainment experience. Anxious recipients, on the other hand, try to cope with their own fears by looking at the relevant content. "


Drastic live performances on the concert stage were staged by the punk rock musician GG Allin , who masturbated, mutilated himself or swallowed his own excrement during his performances. In 1993 GG Allin died of a heroin overdose . Cover artwork and lyrics by Death Metal bands such as the Cannibal Corpse are no less offensive . Because of the extremely bloody graphic images, the music albums of this American group are subject to a legal ban in some countries. On the original cover of the Cannibal Corpse album Butchered at Birth , which was confiscated in Germany and which was released in 1991, a drawing depicts two zombies gutting a skeletonized woman with butcher's knives while mutilated infants hang from the ceiling.


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Web links

Commons : Disgust  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Disgust  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Disgust  - Quotes


  1. In moral philosophy, on the other hand, disgust in the sense of abhorrence was considered a concupiscible passion which - in contrast to desire as a desire which the absent good strives for - as awe flees the absent evil and is referred to as Latin fuga or horror .
  2. Valerie Curtis, Michéa l de Barra, Robert Aunger: Disgust as to adaptive system for disease avoidance behavior . In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society . tape 366 , January 3, 2011, p. 389–401 , doi : 10.1098 / rstb.2010.0117 ( Online [PDF; 343 kB ]).
  3. ^ Lothar Penning: Cultural-historical and sociological aspects of disgust. 1984 (see dissertation, p. 2).
  4. a b Bernd Reuschenbach: XII disgust. Script ( Memento from December 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 249 kB)
  5. a b c Rolf Degen: It is not only spoiled things that make people afraid. In: Tabula. 02/2005. ( sge-ssn.ch ( memento of August 9, 2006 in the Internet Archive ))
  6. ^ A b c Tom Simpson: The Development of Food Preferences and Disgust. For Innateness Workshop on April 3, 2004.
  7. a b c Rolf Degen: When the food comes up. In: Tabula. 02/2005.
  8. Bruce Bower: Forbidden flavors: scientists consider how disgusting tastes can linger surreptitiously in memory. ( Memento from July 8, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ) In: Science News. March 29, 1997.
  9. ^ Charles Darwin: The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Chapter 11. human-nature.com
  10. Annette Kluitmann: It tempts you to vomit. On the psychological significance of disgust. In: Forum of Psychoanalysis. 1999, 15/3, pp. 267-281.
  11. Winfried Menninghaus: Disgust. Theory and history of a strong sensation. 1999, p. 283 ff.
  12. Konrad Paul Liessmann: “Disgust! Disgust! Disgust! - Woe to me! ”A little philosophy of abhorrence. In: Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Ed.): Disgust and allergy. 1997, p. 107.
  13. Lothar Penning, p. 46 ff.
  14. a b Andreas Dorschel : Exact Imagination. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . No. 106, May 7, 2008, p. 14.
  15. DLF : "Bad feelings" , review of Ekel, Haß, Hochmut , January 17, 2008.
  16. Abjection. In: Lexicon Gender Studies / Gender Research. 2002, p. 2.
  17. Julia Kristeva: Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York 1982.
  18. ^ Paul Rozin et al.: Disgust. In: Handbook of Emotions. 2000, pp. 637-653.
  19. Rozin et al.: Disgust. P. 649.
  20. Rozin et al.: Disgust. P. 650.
  21. P. Ekman: Universals and Cultural Differences in Facial Expression of Emotion. In: J. Cole (Ed.): Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln. University of Nebraska Press, Nebraska 1972, pp. 207-283 [anger, fear, disgust, contempt, joy, sadness, surprise]; P. Ekman: An argument for basic emotions. In: Cognition and Emotion. 6, 1992, pp. 169-200; more complex classified P. Ekman: Basic Emotions. ( Memento of July 26, 2007 on WebCite ) In: T. Dalgleish, T. Power (Eds.): The Handbook of Cognition and Emotion. John Wiley & Sons, Sussex, UK 1999, pp. 45-60.
  22. Mick Power and Tim Dalgleish differentiate between five basic types, for example anger, sadness, fear, joy and disgust (Cognition and Emotion: From Order to Disorder, Psychology Press 2007, on feeling of disgust, Chapter 8).
  23. e.g. Panksepp 1998.
  24. See, inter alia, Nussbaum: "Secret Sewers of Vice": Disgust, Bodies and the Law. In: Susan Bandes u. a. (Ed.): The Passions of Law. NYU Press 1999, pp. 19-62; s. for example magazine.uchicago.edu
  25. In contrast to anger (directed at actions that harm people or property) and disregard (contempt), which are aimed at actions against the social order; see. P. Rozin, L. Lowery, S. Imada, J. Haidt : The CAD triad hypothesis: A mapping between three moral emotions (contempt, anger, disgust) and three moral codes (community, autonomy, divinity). In: Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 76, 1999, pp. 574-586.
  26. ^ Nussbaum: Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law Cover. Cape. 2 (71ff) and 3 (124ff); Nussbaum: Upheavals of Thought. Pp. 190-206.
  27. Dieter Vaitl: Look into the brain: How emotions arise. (pdf; 1.1 MB).
  28. Volkart Wildermuth : Empathize through empathy. How the brain processes other people's emotions.
  29. ^ BBC: Findings by Val Curtis
  30. Information on the Curtis study
  31. On the Arkansas study ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  32. Brain researcher Joachim Bauer: "Our brain reacts with disgust to injustice" , Interview with Joachim Bauer , Frankfurter Rundschau from April 5, 2011 (accessed on July 24, 2016)
  33. How disgust makes you sick. ( Memento from July 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  34. Anne Schienle et al. a .: Disgust sensitivity as a vulnerability factor for eating disorders. ( Memento from October 9, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) ( MS Word ; 162 kB)
  35. Report on Wissenschaft.de: Get rid of the yuck factor! ( Memento of October 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive ); Original publication : Charmaine Borg, Peter J. de Jong, Marianna Mazza: Feelings of Disgust and Disgust-Induced Avoidance Weaken following Induced Sexual Arousal in Women. In: PLoS ONE. 7, 2012, p. E44111, doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0044111 .
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  106. Authors: Werner Kübler, Gisela C. Fischer, Manfred Oehmichen, Johann Glatzel, Franz Kohl, Ulrich Diehl, Matthias Hurst, Knut Eming, Pia Daniela Volz, Thomas Anz , Birgit Harreß, Wolfram Schmitt and the eds. Zu : Ekel in der Clinic, nutritional physiological and nursing perspectives; under the questions of forensic medicine , psychopathology and psychodynamics ; Disgust in literature, art, in film, in aesthetics and philosophy
  107. also contains: The Standard Modes of Aversion: Fear, Disgust, and Hatred. This text in German separately: On the phenomenology of hostile feelings. In: Aurel Kolnai: disgust, arrogance, hatred. on the phenomenology of hostile feelings. Suhrkamp, ​​2007, ISBN 978-3-518-29445-1 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 28, 2008 in this version .