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Cultural Diversity on Disgust

Updated on September 9, 2013

Cultural Diversity on Disgust

Your particular culture has a strong influence on which foods you learn to perceive as disgusting and which you think are delicious.

I'll describe three foods below that are considered delicious in some cultures which are disgusting to others.

Disgust is triggered by the presence of a variety of contaminated or offensive things, including certain foods, body products, and gore.

We show disgust, which is universally recognized facial expression by closing the eyes, narrowing the nostrils, curling the lips downward, and sometimes sticking out the tongue.

Disgust is considered a basic emotion and is specifically related to a particular motivational system (hunger). Children begin to show the facial expression for disgust between the ages of 2 and 4, a time when they are learning which foods in their culture are judged edible and which are considered repugnant.

Senses transform physical energy into impulses, which eventually become sensations and then perceptions. However, your perceptions are usually influenced by psychological factors, such as learning, emotion, and motivation, so that you never perceive the world exactly like someone else. For example, when offered a fish eye to eat, many of us would react with great disgust. The facial expression to express disgust is similar across cultures.

1. Plump Grubs

For most U.S. citizens, eating a round, soft, white worm would be totally unthinkable. For the Asmat of New Guinea, however, a favorite delicacy is a plump, white, 2-inch larva -the beetle grub. The natives harvest dozens of the grubs, put them on bamboo slivers, and roast them. A photographer who did a story on the the Asmat tried to eat a roasted grub, but his American tastes would not let him swallow it.

2. Fish Eyes and Whale Fat

Although some Americans have developed a taste for raw fish (sushi), a common dish in Japan, most would certainly gag at the thought of eating raw fish eyes. Yet for some Inuit (Eskimo) children, raw fish eyes are like candy. Inuits use all-purpose knife to gouge out the eye of an already-filleted Arctic fish.

Eskimos also hunt a type of whale (the narwhal) that provides much of their proteins. They consider the layer of fat under the skin (mukluk) a delicacy, and they eat it raw or dried.

3. Milk and Blood

Several tribes in East Africa supplement their diet with fresh blood that is sometimes mixed with milk. They obtain the blood by puncturing a cow's jugular vein with a sharp arrow. A cow can be bled many times and suffer no ill effects. The blood-milk drink provides a rich source of protein and iron.

Cultural Influences on Disgust

The reaction of U.S. college students to eating white, plump grubs or cold, glassy fish eyes or having a warm drink of blood mixed with milk is almost always disgust. Researchers believe that showing disgust originally evolved to signal rejection of potentially contaminated or dangerous foods. Today, however, because of cultural and psychological influence, we may show disgust for eating a variety of noncontaminated foods (cat, dog, or horse meat) or situations (touching a dead person). The fact that the same things are viewed as all right in one culture but as disgusting in another graphically shows how much cultural values can influence and bias perceptions.

Just as psychological factors are involved in perceiving taste, they are also involved in experiencing pain.

Other disgusting food images

balut egg - a delicacy in Asia esp. Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and China
balut egg - a delicacy in Asia esp. Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and China
scorpion kebab in China
scorpion kebab in China
water beatles
water beatles
cow's tongue
cow's tongue

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