Dirt, Disgust, and Disease: Is Hygiene in Our Genes?

  title={Dirt, Disgust, and Disease: Is Hygiene in Our Genes?},
  author={Val Curtis and Adam Biran},
  journal={Perspectives in Biology and Medicine},
  pages={17 - 31}
  • V. Curtis, A. Biran
  • Published 1 February 2001
  • Psychology
  • Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
Anthropologists have long puzzled over why certain objects and activities are avoided, reviled, or proscribed in many cultures. Numerous theories have been proposed, but as Reinhart (1990) suggests above, a full explanation remains elusive. Psychologists recently have begun to explore the nature of the revulsion that is occasioned by the sight of excreta, rotten food, slime, and bugs. They have described and categorized the emotion of disgust and have even proposed a location in the brain where… 
Dirt, disgust and disease: a natural history of hygiene
  • V. Curtis
  • Biology
    Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
  • 2007
It is argued that hygiene behaviour and disgust predate culture and so cannot fully be explained as its product, and the history of ideas about disease thus is neither entirely socially constructed nor an “heroic progress” of scientists leading the ignorant into the light.
Disgust as a disease-avoidance mechanism.
The authors find strong support for a disease-avoidance account of disgust and suggest that it offers a way to bridge the divide between concrete and ideational accounts of disgust.
Why disgust matters
  • V. Curtis
  • Psychology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2011
It is argued that a better understanding of disgust, using the new synthesis, offers practical lessons that can enhance human flourishing and provide a model system for the study of emotion.
The structure and function of pathogen disgust
It is suggested that regularly occurring types of infectious disease problems have produced regularities in the domain structure of pathogen disgust and the implications for understanding the structure, function and measurement of motives such as disgust in humans and other animals are discussed.
Developing Disgust: Theory, Measurement, and Application
Disgust is a complex and uncharacteristic emotion. Despite being frequently classified as a “basic” emotion, disgust has a wide range of elicitors, many competing functional theories, and a
Developing Disgust : Theory , Measurement , and Application
Disgust is a complex and uncharacteristic emotion. Despite being frequently classified as a “basic” emotion, disgust has a wide range of elicitors, many competing functional theories, and a
Why do people vary in disgust?
People vary in the degree to which they experience disgust toward—and, consequently, avoid—cues to pathogens, and researchers have suggested that variability reflects a general tendency to experience anxiety or emotional distress.
Disgusting bodies, disgusting religion: the biology of Tantra.
  • Thomas B. Ellis
  • Psychology
    Journal of the American Academy of Religion. American Academy of Religion
  • 2011
It is suggested that hard-core Tantra is literally disgusting because it is literally maladaptive, and that Tantra may be a perfected religion.
Understanding disgust
Cognitive neuroscientists have a unique opportunity to study how an evolutionarily ancient response rooted in the chemical senses has expanded into a uniquely human social cognitive domain; many interesting research avenues remain to be explored.
A natural history of hygiene.
  • V. Curtis
  • Medicine
    The Canadian journal of infectious diseases & medical microbiology = Journal canadien des maladies infectieuses et de la microbiologie medicale
  • 2007
In unpacking the Pandora's box of hygiene, the author looks into its ancient evolutionary history and its more recent human history, and argues that disgust and hygiene behaviour came first, and that the rationales came later.


A perspective on disgust.
The ontogeny of disgust, which the author believes develops during the first 8 years of life, is considered and the idea that feces, the universal disgust object, is also the first is explored, and the mechanisms for the acquisition of disgust are examined.
Impurity/No Danger
It is still true that Europeans and Americans quail at the thought of bodily functions that signify, that are not "merely biological," as we conceive them to be. In a prominent anthropologist's
The Anatomy of Disgust
Prologue 1. Darwin's Disgust 2. Disgust and Its Neighbors 3. Thick, Greasy Life 4. The Senses 5. Orifices and Bodily Wastes 6. Fair Is Foul, and Foul Is Fair 7. Warriors, Saints, and Delicacy 8. The
Individual Differences in Disgust Sensitivity: Comparisons and Evaluations of Paper-and-Pencil versus Behavioral Measures
Abstract Sixty-eight undergraduate students experienced 32 hands-on tasks designed to provide a behavioral validation for the paper-and-pencil Disgust Scale, which the students had completed 2 months
Handbook of Emotions
Part 1. Interdisciplinary Foundations. R.C. Solomon, The Philosophy of Emotions. P.N. Stearns, History of Emotions: Issues of Change and Impact. J.E. Stets, J.H. Turner, The Sociology of Emotions. J.
Phobias and preparedness
A specific neural substrate for perceiving facial expressions of disgust
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine the neural substrate for perceiving disgust expressions and found the neural response to facial expressions of disgust in others is thus closely related to appraisal of distasteful stimuli.
Behavioral adaptations to pathogens and parasites: Five strategies
  • B. Hart
  • Biology, Psychology
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
  • 1990
Morality and Health
Allan M. Brandt and Paul Rozin PERSPECTIVES ON MORALITY AND HEALTH Keith Thomas - Health and Morality in Early Modern England Charles Rosenberg - Banishing Risk: Continuity and Change in the Moral
The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
Acknowledgments List of Illustrations Figures Plates Preface to the Anniversary Edition by Paul Ekman Preface to the Third Edition by Paul Ekman Preface to the Second Edition by Francis Darwin