Sheepish Fears, Tooth Diversity, Crepitus, 4-Leaf Clovers

This week’s Feedback column (that I write) in New Scientist magazine has four segments. Here are bits of each of them: Sheepish fears — … They performed experiments exposing sheep to a dog sitting in a window, and to the window without the dog. They tried giving the sheep drugs to reduce anxiety and giving them drugs to […]

Scary animals : a new classification [study]

Scary animals, a new study reveals, can be separated into five distinct clusters : “(1) non‐slimy invertebrates; (2) snakes; (3) mice, rats, and bats; (4) human endo‐ and exoparasites (intestinal helminths and louse); and (5) farm/pet animals. However, only snakes, spiders, and parasites evoke intense fear and disgust in the non‐clinical population.” The diagram below […]

The physiological underpinnings of aversion to images of clusters of holes (new study)

When you look at the photo above, perhaps you see : 1) A delicious-looking much-loved chocolate bar renowned for its unique bubbly texture. or 2) A nightmarish and disgusting depiction of tightly clustered holes. If your reaction leans more towards the latter, it’s possible that you are suffering from trypophobia. Which is (currently being) defined […]

Podcast #90: Effect of Eating Garlic on Armpit Odor

If a person eats garlic, does that change the person’s armpit odor? Jean Berko Gleason, a researcher who is disgusted by both garlic and armpit odor, helps us appreciate research on that very question, in this week’s Improbable Research podcast. SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free. This week, Marc Abrahams discusses a published garlic/armpit study, with dramatic readings from Boston University […]

The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study

Brain researchers, using advanced fMRI technology, made another unexpected advance toward understanding how the brain does or does not work. Their newly published study is: “The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study,” Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly and Tao Jiang, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 10, October 2016, article 511. The authors, at […]

People who squirm when seeing squirming or non-squirming eel

A description of the behaviour and general demeanour of eels might well include the word ‘squirm‘. But it’s not just eels which squirm, humans do too, sometimes when observing eels. Dr Alex Rhys-Taylor BSc, MA, PhD, PGCert, of Goldsmith’s College, London, describes such a scenario in ‘Disgust and Distinction: The case of the jellied eel.’ […]

Hamburger hazards and emotions [study]

Comes news about how some people in some places react to hypothetical questions about photographs of hamburgers. The study, freshly published online, is: “Hamburger hazards and emotions,” Nina Veflen Olsen [pictured here], Elin Røssvoll, Solveig Langsrud, Joachim Scholderer, Appetite, vol. 78, 1 July 2014, pp. 95–101. (Thanks to @Neuro_Skeptic for bringing this to our attention.) […]

“Zebrafish… also find these scents disgusting”

Danielle Venton writes in the PNAS First Look Blog: Geneticists and cell biologists from the University of Cologne in Germany and Harvard University have found that zebrafish, a vertebrate model animal, also find these scents disgusting. The phrase “these scents” refers to the personal odors of the socially-isolating chemical cadaverine [the structure of which is pictured here] […]

Understanding Stigma with a ‘Dogfood Sandwich’

Would you care for a dogfood sandwich? New research investigates this question with regard to ‘Stigma’. Previous investigators of ‘Stigma’ (e.g.Fallon et al., 1984; Rozin et al., 1985, 1986) have examined people’s reactions to cockroaches and ‘Hitler’s sweater’. “For example, dipping a sterilized cockroach into a glass of juice lowered the average rating of the […]