This article has been making the rounds recently, so I figured I’d add my 2¢.
Having existed in human society for some time, and having, during that time, visited many a grocer, I’ve oft noted the strange practice of store clerks attempting to bag certain sundries (sanitary napkins, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, etc.) separately, before placing them with the rest of my purchase. I always try to stop the cashiers from going through these silly and wasteful bagging hurdles with my stuff, and apparently I’m in the minority, here.
Any food that touched something perceived to be disgusting became immediately less desirable itself, though all of the products were in their original wrapping. … “It makes no sense if you think about it,” says Fitzsimons. More irrationally still, the subjects were less comfortable with a transparent package than an opaque one, as if it somehow had greater power to leak contamination.
This never really seemed logical to me (I always assumed it was because of a few irrational crazies making the cashiers’ lives hell), and it still doesn’t, but at least now it makes sense (most people are crazy, and dumb, and this is a survival mechanism the cashiers have adapted).
Maybe these tendencies don’t apply to me so much because I think of things too logically, or possibly I just have a different idea of ‘gross’ than other people. Unused sanitary napkins and toilet paper, for instance, are simply clean cloth and paper and don’t bother me in the slightest. I even use toilet paper in lieu of facial tissues nearly every day- no problem there. As for the household cleaners, they’re toxic, so I can see some merit in that, but they are also individually wrapped (as is most food) and therefore (in my opinion) are of negligible risk (besides, I’d probably notice a major leak before getting accidentally poisoned). I can sympathize more for certain pet supplies; but not kitty litter so much as pig’s ears, which make your hands smell when handled, so there is a tangible element there- if my bananas started smelling like bacon (for instance), that would just be disgusting.
Of course, he tries to derail any “not me!” protesters,
Moreover, he says, “everything we did suggested that these feelings were below the level of awareness. If we told someone, ‘You didn’t take the cookie because it touched the kitty litter,’ they would say, ‘That’s ridiculous.'”
And, as is usually the case with such statements, there is really no way to prove them wrong. If you become aware of what you may be doing, you may stop doing it and assert that you wouldn’t have done it in the first place, and conversely, if you are unaware of it, you’ll never notice that you did it.
Sure, I know for a fact that some people do this. But I am also relatively certain that many others do not (even if I can’t count myself in that group, because apparently I can’t make such judgments of myself). Different people find different things gross, of course, and that has to be a consideration. Even more importantly, how do factors like age and education affect things? What sort of people partook in the study? Since these are marketing people and not scientists, how can you even be sure the study was carried out in any sort of reasonable manner?
Granted, I’ve seen evidence of some of this craziness in the wild, but I still seem to find fault with nearly all the assumptions this article makes. For instance, it opens with the following anecdote,
Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology, took a cockroach that had been sterilized, dipped it into a glass of orange juice, then asked if anyone was willing to take a sip.
Nobody was. But if an involuntary ewww just went through your mind, as it almost certainly did, the experiment is still working.
Maybe this is just a rare case of my opinion of ‘disgusting’ agreeing with the masses, but that’s just gross. First off, how do you sanitize a cockroach without damaging its structural integrity or making it toxic? I’ve found bits of bug floating in beverages before, and sanitary or not, imbibing bug bits is nauseating. Even if it’s not the case that the roach will fall to pieces in the juice, how can I be assured it was actually sanitized in the first place? If it was sanitized, what with? Is it safe? Secondly, if the professor was handling the roach with his bare hands, that’s gross as well; as they certainly aren’t sanitized. If he were to stick a finger in the juice and offer it to me, I would refuse it just as surely as I would the roach.
A final thing that irked me about this article is the hypothesis at the end:
And other retailers will be interested to hear about Morales’ next study, on the opposite of the cooties effect. “It turns out that if male customers see an attractive woman touching a garment, like a T shirt, the men are more likely to want it.”
I know that this is unfortunately the way science tends to work, but couldn’t he at least pretend to not know the outcome of his next study before he performs it? Or maybe the purpose of this article is to garner funding for that study.
Whatever, like any study, the results seem rather interesting at first glance, but I doubt everything is as simple as it is presented. I am also inherently distrustful of all things marketing, which makes the entire thing seem like their truthiness against mine.