Dr. Curtis and colleagues claim to have quantitatively demonstrated for the first time that the emotion of disgust, rather than being a primarily learned reaction, is, in fact, part of humans' biological programming to help protect us from the risks of disease or harm.
In the past, disgust was thought to be more a response to "otherness," to something foreign or not socially acceptable, but some experts agree that this latest study confirms the evolutionary role. According to psychologist Lance Workman, of Cardiff University, even though there may be a cultural component, "disgust is an evolutionary response to dangerous items." Not everybody agrees wholeheartedly, however. Professor Clark McCauley, of Bryn Mawr University, claims that the biological mechanism is just the starting point: "What people today find disgusting goes far beyond what can be understood in the evolutionary sense.... For example, what counts for appropriate care of hair in our society is not the same as in some other societies."
Dr. Curtis and her team do acknowledge that although the overall pattern could not have been clearer or more consistent, a certain amount of "disgust behaviour," as with all behavioral patterns, comes from learned experience. After all, what else might explain the fact (reg req'd) that although people from all over the world responded similarly, Australians were the least squeamish?