🔢 Key Takeaways
- Disgust can limit progress, but understanding its types and overcoming it through exposure and incentives can create positive change. Spread the word and listen to Freakonomics Radio for insights on this and other thought-provoking topics.
- Disgust varies among individuals and can affect mental health. Researcher Paul Rozin has a partial vegetarian diet but is open to trying unconventional meats, including human flesh, and finds endo-cannibalism acceptable if practiced in a religion.
- Disgust is an adaptive mechanism meant to protect us from harmful pathogens and parasites. Despite cultural differences, people around the world generally find the same things disgusting for this reason.
- Disgust serves as a protective mechanism against harmful stimuli and is expressed through physical and emotional responses. It has six distinct categories and can be extended to moral violations, but is still widely understood as a universal language.
- Disgust is a multifaceted emotion that is influenced by biology and culture. It can be advantageous in promoting healthy behaviors such as hand hygiene, but we should also be mindful of when to dial it up or down.
- Disgust can be used to promote hand-washing, but can hinder other behaviors like accepting recycled water or consuming insects. Understanding the role of disgust in behavior change can lead to more effective solutions.
- Despite being a popular source of protein for many, most of the world finds insects disgusting. Disgust plays a role in limiting what can be traded in markets through the concept of moral repugnance, but financial incentives may still overcome this aversion.
- Higher financial incentives can influence individuals to make bad decisions, even when presented with negative consequences. It is important to carefully consider the use of incentives and potential unintended consequences.
- Continuously exposing people to something unfamiliar, like insects, can help them develop a taste for it over time. This can be combined with distancing insects from any negative associations and a willingness to try something new.
- Though insects face challenges in production and marketing, companies are finding new ways to package and incorporate them. Consumer acceptance, taste and volume are key factors for widespread adoption and investment from large companies.
- Insects are a viable source of protein with a lower environmental impact compared to traditional livestock. Companies can blend the unfamiliar with the familiar to appeal to consumers and encourage more sustainable food choices. The future of insect-based products in mainstream companies remains uncertain.
- Eating insects could become more accepted in the future, especially if marketed as exotic or adventurous, and with the recent ruling by the European Union's Food Safety Authority, there is potential for it to become a retail item.
- Insects, such as black soldier flies, are a healthy and flavorful option for foodies looking to add variety to their diet. Start with palatable dishes, like croquettes, to ease into insect consumption.
- Austerity cuts and the pandemic have led to an estimated 35,000 extra cancer deaths in the UK. More research and action must be taken to reduce the number of lives lost to cancer.
📝 Podcast Notes
Access Over 10 Years of Freakonomics Radio Episodes for Free
The entire archive of Freakonomics Radio can now be accessed for free on any podcast app, providing listeners with over 10 years' worth of episodes. To help support the show, spreading the word or leaving a five-star rating or review on your preferred app can assist others in discovering the show. While disgust as an emotion has served an evolutionary purpose, it can also limit our ability to make positive changes in our environment, economy, and health. Psychologists have identified six types of disgust, and incentives can alter an individual's threshold for what they find repulsive. Exposure to previously disgust-inducing stimuli, such as medical cadavers, can also lessen the emotion. Ultimately, we should examine the role of disgust in our lives and consider ways to overcome it in pursuit of progress.
The Complex Nature of Disgust and its Impact on Mental Health
Disgust is a complex emotion with enormous variations that are influenced by cultural, evolutionary, and psychological factors. There are people who have almost no disgust, and there are those who are highly disgusted by certain things. Disgust can also have ramifications on one's mental health, as people who are high on the disgust scale often have comorbidities with other neuroticisms. Despite his interest in disgust, Paul Rozin has a partial vegetarian diet but has some exceptions for rejected food and specific waste products. Rozin is also open to trying unconventional meats, including human flesh, out of curiosity. Endo-cannibalism, which involves consuming the ashes or body parts of a loved one, is a form of cannibalism that Rozin finds acceptable if practiced in a religion.
The Science of Disgust and its Implications for Public Health
Disgustologists study the science of disgust, and there are relatively few of them despite the concept being relevant to global public health. Disgust is an adaptation of the brain to avoid potentially harmful pathogens and parasites. People around the world generally regard the same things as disgusting because those things are likely to carry pathogens or parasites, such as rotten food, vomit, and fallen hairs. Because meat is highly nutritious and favored by humans, the strong negative emotion of disgust towards it is curious. Disgust is defined as rejection or offense at the incorporation of an offensive, contaminating substance.
The Evolution and Characteristics of Disgust
Disgust is a complex emotion that evolved to protect us from parasites, pathogens, and other harmful stimuli. It involves physical and verbal expressions, as well as an emotional component that goes beyond just the things we put in our mouths. There are six different categories that generate disgust, including hygiene, certain animals and insects, sex, people who appear atypical, types of food, and more. Disgust can also be extended to moral violations, but there is still a debate on whether it's a metaphorical use or an actual disgust response. Nevertheless, disgust is a universal language that can be understood throughout the world, and it plays an important role in our survival and well-being.
The Complex Emotion of Disgust and Its Potential Benefits
Disgust is a complex emotion driven by biological and evolutionary factors with strong emotional components. It is malleable and variable among individuals and cultures. While it can be a double-edged sword, disgust can also be useful in promoting behaviors that are good for our health. For instance, using disgust to promote hand hygiene has proven effective in some areas. Therefore, we may need to learn to dial down the disgust in some cases and turn it up in others, depending on the situation. Understanding how disgust works and its potential benefits can help us use it as a tool to improve our health and well-being.
The Role of Disgust in Behavior Change for Environmental and Economic Issues
Disgust can be a powerful tool in promoting behavior change, but it can also hinder it. Effective hand-washing campaigns that utilize disgust have seen success in increasing rates of hand-washing. On the other hand, reducing disgust can be important in promoting the acceptance of recycled water, which has great potential for environmental and economic gains. Disgust can also be a barrier to people consuming protein-rich insects, which are more resource-efficient to produce than meat. Making flour from insects that replaces wheat or corn flour is one approach to increase consumption. Understanding the role of disgust in behavior change can lead to more effective and efficient solutions in environmental and economic issues.
The Role of Disgust in the Economics of Insects and Morality
Insects are a popular source of protein for over a billion people, but the rest of the world finds them disgusting. However, many common foods and products contain insects or insect parts, such as chocolate bars and canned tomatoes. Disgust plays a role in economics through the concept of moral repugnance, which limits what can be traded in markets. For example, laws prevent compensating kidney donors and offering compensation for breast milk. Research has yet to determine if incentives lead to worse decision-making in these areas. Experiments involving college students showed that disgust can affect their willingness to eat insects, but financial incentives can still overcome this aversion.
The Effect of Incentives on Decision-Making: Lessons from Mealworms, Silkworm Pupae and Crickets
Dr. Benjamin Ambuehl conducted an experiment to learn about the effect of financial and informational incentives on decision-making. Ambuehl used mealworms, silkworm pupae and crickets to measure how both incentives affected his research subjects' decisions. He found that financial incentives increased the appetite for subjects to persuade themselves that what they were about to do was a good idea. When offered $30 instead of $3, nearly 60 percent decided to eat the insects without video access, while over 70 percent decided to eat after watching the positive video. Ambuehl found that incentives can cause bad decisions and concluded that paying individuals a larger amount of money can skew their judgment.
Using Mere-Exposure Effect to Develop a Liking for Insects
Incentives may not always work in getting people to try new things, as they may be less likely to continue without the incentive. However, the mere-exposure effect can be useful in developing a liking for unfamiliar foods, like insects. As people are exposed to something over longer periods of time, they start to like it. This phenomenon has been observed with recycled water, cadavers, and even insects. Distancing insects from any connection with disease can also increase people's willingness to try them. Ultimately, getting people to eat insects may require a combination of exposure, distance from disease, and a willingness to try something new.
Overcoming the Hurdles of Insect-Based Foods
Insects as a viable food source face challenges in mass production and consumer acceptance, but small companies are finding innovative ways to package and market them such as incorporating them in pet food. To convince big food companies like Kraft Heinz to invest in insect-based products, sensory and consumer science teams conduct taste tests with professional tasters and consumer panels. Volume is key in new food ideas, as only a small percentage make it to market due to factors such as ingredient availability and production cost. When considering insect-based foods, the type, form and visibility of the insects are important factors for consumer acceptance.
Insect-Based Foods: A Sustainable and Nutritious Option?
While eating insects may sound unappetizing to some Western consumers, insect-based dishes are already a staple in some parts of the world, such as Sicilian casu marzu cheese and German mite cheese. Insects are also a viable source of protein with a lower environmental impact compared to traditional livestock. The key to getting consumers on board is to blend the unfamiliar with the familiar, like mixing new fruits with strawberries. However, not all consumers are willing to try new things, and companies like Heinz may stick with their classic products. Adventurous consumers may be more open to insect-based products, but it remains to be seen if mainstream companies will take the leap.
The Potential of Insects as a Mainstream Food Source
The idea of eating insects may seem repugnant to many, but as tastes and attitudes change over time, it is not impossible for insects to become mainstream. While it may be difficult to convince a sizable minority of people to consume insects on a regular basis, making it sound exotic or adventurous could help. Additionally, as the European Union's Food Safety Authority rules mealworms safe for consumption, it opens up the possibility for scaling up production and supply. It is worth noting that what we find repugnant in one era may be standard in another, showing the potential for insects to become a more accepted food source in the future. Ultimately, as with many food trends, introducing insects in fine dining, casual restaurants, and fast food could eventually lead to them becoming a retail item.
Insects as a Nutritious and Creative Food Source
Insects are becoming a more acceptable food source due to their nutritional value and creativity in cooking. Advocates of insect consumption suggest starting with more palatable dishes such as croquettes before trying whole dishes of crickets or grasshoppers. Black soldier flies are currently trending due to their short life cycle and high nutritional value. The taste of insects, when prepared well, can be comparable to popular snack foods and can even be healthier. Chefs and food enthusiasts are on a mission to make insect eating more acceptable to the masses.
The Devastating Impact of Austerity Cuts and the Pandemic on Cancer Patients
Val Curtis, a British hygiene scholar who died in October 2020 from cancer, linked her death not just to the burdens that COVID-19 has put on the healthcare system, but to the austerity cuts made over the last decade or so to the National Health Service in the UK. Her story highlights the devastating impact the pandemic is having on cancer patients, with an estimated extra 35,000 cancer deaths in the UK alone. The next episode will explore cancer death, cancer research, and why it remains siloed, despite so much research being conducted. It will also look at what is being done to change this and ultimately, reduce the number of lives lost to cancer.