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Author Topic: Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?  (Read 4016 times)

Rafal Zar

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Rafal Zar  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hey

I am a MA's Fine Art student. Im doing my research on faeces in fine arts but I'm interested in our perception of faeces in general from scientific point of view. I know there are some cultural constructs which differ from culture to culture but I assume all people across the world cringe when they smell faeces. How our nose recognise smells? Do we receive poop smell as a kind of a threat. Is it innate behaviour or are we taught that flowers smell nice and smell of dirt is wrong?

Thank you

Kind regards

Rafal Zar

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 27/11/2011 23:01:02 by _system »


 

Offline Karen W.

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #1 on: 28/11/2011 08:12:51 »
I am no scientist but I think animal instinct alone taught us to use our noses for tracking and generally thats done by animals through excrement etc.. as territorial markings and such.. as educated modern person Its not food. or fresh breeze.. or scented sweet smelling flower.. so we don't like it.. I even might think its some kind of primal self preservation kind of thing also.. not wanting to defecate in your immediate area..perhaps the unknown since that its not good and perhaps to simply keeping us humans from eating our own stools... Gag me with a spoon....which would be dangerous in  itself for health reasons. Perhaps we associate the smell as bad simply because it does smell bad and each person smells different... Just a thought or two....
 

Offline CZARCAR

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #2 on: 28/11/2011 12:35:53 »
funny how dogs , with superior smell, love it
 

Offline Supercryptid

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #3 on: 29/11/2011 04:43:19 »
I imagine it is innate. Whenever you encounter a new smell, you know immediately whether to find it pleasant or not; no one has to tell you what to think of it.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #4 on: 29/11/2011 06:57:33 »
So I guess it could be for identification.. I wonder if scientists can identify one human from another through our fecal  deposits? You know like a fingerprint? Can the odor of a stool identify us to each other or other animals...Perhaps the bad odor is there as much for a deterrent as it is a marker of territory.. somewhere long ago someone said.. "poop stinks..." or something similar and it caught on... perhaps if it had never been labeled as a bad odor, like you sort of implied in your post, perhaps we wouldn't mind it so much...LOL We have a forum member who would tell you how much he enjoys the aroma of his own stools and urine...especially asparagus urine.. which he claims at times of defecation...LOL
By the way Czar.. I agree with you.. dogs are horrible about that.... :-)
 

Offline Nizzle

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #5 on: 29/11/2011 08:38:25 »
Feces can carry disease so we have our evolutionary memory telling us that it's icky and we have to stay away from it.

Evolutionary memory is basically the same as innate behavior
 

Offline CliffordK

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #6 on: 29/11/2011 08:42:55 »
Many species avoid the manure of their own species.  It is probably due to the possibility of it carrying disease, and genetic selection against disease.

Rat and mice feces would have also been associated with disease transmission, and likewise can evoke a strong repulsive reactions.

Farmers may be exposed to farm animal manures...  and may not find it as displeasurable.  
 

Offline Don_1

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #7 on: 29/11/2011 10:31:38 »

Is it innate behaviour or are we taught that flowers smell nice and smell of dirt is wrong?


Smell helps us determine what is and what isn't good for us, as has been said here. However some smells can be deceptive.

I recall an offal sausage served in France, which not only looked like dog poo, but once cut open smelt like it. Though none passed my lips, I presume it was safe to eat.

What of the Phallus impudicus or Stinkhorn fungi? This common fungi, found throughout Europe and western north America, produces a smell which mimics dog poo to attract flies which carry it's spores over greater distances in woodland than wind would manage. Despite the awful smell, the fungi is edible and the French (and Germans) do eat it.


Could I just say that ".....faeces in fine arts ......" seems to me to be a contradition in terms! Yes, I know that poo has been used in 'artworks' (I use the term very loosely), but just what is wrong with oil paint, watercolour, acrylic paint, crayons, inks, marble, alabaster, wood, bronze etc etc etc. Somehow, I get the feeling that works by the great masters, such as Constable, Titian, Michelangelo and the like would not be quite so respected if they contained images of sh1t or were made of the stuff.
« Last Edit: 29/11/2011 10:33:27 by Don_1 »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #8 on: 29/11/2011 11:06:10 »
The Chinese Durian is another of those fruits that has a quite pungent smell, although I think the fruit wasn't too bad.

In agree that in many cases, we can use smell to determine what is safe to eat, or even safe to be around. 

Humans tend to be very picky eaters.
Dogs...  will sample a wide variety of flavors that people might not.

And, pigs will root around in their own manure.  I'm not sure if they're re-eating it, or if they are hunting for tasty morsels like maggots.
 

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Are we innately disgusted by the smell of faeces?
« Reply #8 on: 29/11/2011 11:06:10 »

 

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