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Ick! The power of being grossed out

Everyone is grossed out by something, but most people don’t realize their disgust could cause them to give away prized possessions.

Everyone is grossed out by something, but most people don’t realize their disgust could cause them to give away prized possessions.

Harvard Kennedy School researchers recently published a paper showing that people who are given the option to exchange a possession generally choose to keep it unless their possessions are associated with disgusting experiences.

“Disgust can drive choice even when decision-makers have no good reason to prefer one item over another,” the authors of ‘Disgust Promotes Disposal: Souring the Status Quo’ wrote. “Perhaps surprisingly, participants reported no influence of disgust on their choices, but identified other barely relevant characteristics as influences.”

Researchers conducted two experiments including one with randomly divided groups who were given a covered box of office supplies. One group watched a neutral video on the Great Barrier Reef while the other watched a scene from the film “Trainspotting” in which a man uses the so-called “Worst Toilet in Scotland.”

More than half the “Trainspotting” group traded away their box.

“The finding that disgust promotes disposal has real-world implications that range from the minor to the monumental,” the authors wrote. “In a broad array of cases, people’s propensity to stick with the status quo could be powerfully counteracted by feelings of incidental disgust.”

 
 
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