No matter how disgusting the content can be, why do videos of pimple-popping or ISIS beheadings go viral and earn millions of views on YouTube? Why can’t we resist the urge to click and share disturbing videos that will certainly upset us?
A professor from the University of Central Florida conducted a research involving 130 undergraduate students who watched disturbing movie scenes. In the study, the research team led by Bridget Rubenking measured the physiological responses of the participants.
Their findings suggest that people enjoy watching videos with disturbing content because it’s actually hard to forget. The results of the study showed that the participants had a better memory of the scenes and images that appeared after the disturbing content compared to the ones that appeared before.
Rubenking explained: ”Disgust actually acted like a cognitive interrupt. You forgot what you saw before that because the disgusting stuff became the only salient thing in that message.”
Daniel Kelly, an assistant professor from Purdue University, said that the feeling of disgust actually protects us from infectious diseases.
”It’s the same kind of thrill people get from, say, riding a roller coaster or bungee jumping — it activates the experience the typically comes with a real kind of danger while actually being protected from the harmful effects typically associated with those situations,” he explained.
Why Disgust Matters?
According to a 2011 study, disgust plays a major role in public health.
Handwashing with soap, a practice known to prevent infectious enteric diseases such as diarrhoea, has been effectively reinforced through disgust-based TV and radio commercials during a national handwashing campaign in Ghana. In fact, the use of such material help increase the rate of hand washing by 13% after using the toilet and 41% prior to eating.