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Yum and Yuck: The Psychology Of What We Eat...And What We Spit Out

Would you eat a cricket?
Parth Shah
Would you eat a cricket?

Paul Rozin has been studying the psychology and culture of food for more than 40 years. And he's come to appreciate that food fills many of our needs, but hunger is just one.

"Food is not just nutrition that goes in your mouth or even pleasant sensations that go with it," he says. "It connects to your whole life, and it's really a very important part of performing your culture and experiencing your culture."

This week, we chew over the profound role that food plays in our lives. Then, we spit it all out — we study the ick factor that turns us off to cockroaches, skunks, and poop. Rachel Herz explains the sensation of disgust, and why it doesn't always come naturally.

"Young children are not very good at recognizing disgust faces. In fact, they often mistake the face of disgust with the face of anger," she says. "Disgust is the instinct that has to be learned."

More Reading:

"The Selection of Foods by Rats, Humans, and Other Animals," by Paul Rozin

"Unit Bias: A New Heuristic That Helps Explain the Effect of Portion Size on Food Intake," by Andrew B. Geier, Paul Rozin and Gheorghe Doros

"Verbal Priming and Taste Sensitivity Make Moral Transgressions Gross," by Rachel Herz

"That's Disgusting: Unraveling The Mysteries of Repulsion," by Rachel Herz

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Camila Vargas Restrepo. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Parth Shah is a producer and reporter in the Programming department at NPR. He came to NPR in 2016 as a Kroc Fellow.
Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.
Thomas Lu (he/him) is a producer for NPR's science podcast, Short Wave. The podcast is a perfect equation of curiosity, nerdiness and everyday discoveries.