imageDisgust is one of the primary emotions and one that we most easily recognise.� Our sense of disgust has evolved for good reason � it protects us from the harmful bacteria that proliferate on decaying plant and animal matter, on our excretions and in bodily fluids.

Mark Schaller.


But recently, a group of researchers at the University of British Columbia, led by Professor Mark Schaller, found that the emotion of disgust can serve a second important function in protecting us from disease.

The experiment

Schaller and his colleagues* exposed 28 subjects to one of two stress-inducing sets of images:


imagePeople brandishing guns

People with obvious illnesses

The results

They then measured the stress response by looking at how much interleukin-6 (IL-6) was secreted by the subjects� white blood cells.� This secretion is a known response to stress or trauma and helps our bodies fight bacterial infection.� The subjects reported finding the images of gunmen more stressful, but their blood tests showed that their bodies responded more powerfully to the images of sick people.� IL-6 increased by 6.6% for the gun images and by 23.6%� for the disease images.

So the message is clear: to fight the effects of the common cold, take a good long look at all of the sick people around you and their disgusting sniffing and sneezing!

The paper

* The researchers were Mark Schaller, Gregory E. Miller, Will M. Gervais,� Sarah Yager, and Edith Chen and you can view their paper by clicking on: �Mere Visual Perception of Other People�s Disease Symptoms Facilitates a More Aggressive Immune Response�

Brilliant Stress Management is out now

Brilliant Stress Management, by Mike Clayton

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