The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Babies & icky stuff  (Read 3629 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Babies & icky stuff
« on: 21/08/2007 09:01:25 »
What is it with babies & horrible stuff? I just caught Amy wiping cat poo all round her face (she'd got at the cat litter tray). From 6 feet away the smell was making me gag. So how can babies play with smelly, pooey stuff & get it all over them without batting an eyelid?


 

another_someone

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #1 on: 21/08/2007 14:18:40 »
Indeed, I have heard many stories not dissimilar.

On the other hand, I wonder if there is not some sense to it.  Despite all our fear of infection, many bacteria are necessary for our survival (particularly to help digestion).  Many animals obtain this necessary bacteria from the faeces of their parents, but in humans that is not possible.  I wonder if young babies are instinctively trying to get some of this bacteria (pure speculation, but if not, then where does out gut bacteria come from?).
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #2 on: 21/08/2007 18:19:33 »
With regard where the bacteria come from, I don't know.

The accepted psychological theory is that aversion to icky stuff is learned, so babies don't regard the smell or taste as yucky. If you consider that what are considered delicacies in some countries are regarded as highly distasteful in others, that seems to support the theory.
 

another_someone

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #3 on: 21/08/2007 19:22:36 »
The accepted psychological theory is that aversion to icky stuff is learned, so babies don't regard the smell or taste as yucky. If you consider that what are considered delicacies in some countries are regarded as highly distasteful in others, that seems to support the theory.

I think there is some evidence that this is by no means always as simple as that.

I have heard that aversion to brassica is now regarded as at least partly genetic.  I have also heard comment that we are more tolerant of some spicy food as we get older as our sense of smell and taste deteriorates.

Thus, while I cannot say whether it is true in this case, I can well imagine that some smells and tastes might be different in a small baby than in an adult for purely genetic reasons (just as the brain develops, so too maybe the olfactory senses may alter to reflect the different needs of a young baby from an older child).

Do you have any evidence the their are societies where adults do not have an aversion to faeces, or any individuals who have grown up in unusual circumstances where such an aversion has not been taught?
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #4 on: 21/08/2007 19:24:16 »
I do think that kids need to be exposed to germs, there is far too much fussiness now about children being clean and away from any dirt. but cat poo! i think i would draw a line there.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #5 on: 21/08/2007 19:34:41 »
The accepted psychological theory is that aversion to icky stuff is learned, so babies don't regard the smell or taste as yucky. If you consider that what are considered delicacies in some countries are regarded as highly distasteful in others, that seems to support the theory.

I think there is some evidence that this is by no means always as simple as that.

I have heard that aversion to brassica is now regarded as at least partly genetic.  I have also heard comment that we are more tolerant of some spicy food as we get older as our sense of smell and taste deteriorates.

Thus, while I cannot say whether it is true in this case, I can well imagine that some smells and tastes might be different in a small baby than in an adult for purely genetic reasons (just as the brain develops, so too maybe the olfactory senses may alter to reflect the different needs of a young baby from an older child).

Do you have any evidence the their are societies where adults do not have an aversion to faeces, or any individuals who have grown up in unusual circumstances where such an aversion has not been taught?

I can't, offhand, think of a society that doesn't have an aversion to faeces; but that would seem to prove the point that aversions are learned - or, should I say, may be learned. If babies do not have that aversion but all adults do, that surely indicates a learning process.

My point about delicacies was that people from 1 part of the world may consider delicacies from another part of the world as distasteful. For instance, on a visit to HK I tried sea cucumber, having been assured it was a delicacy. I thought it tasted disgusting, but my host was wolfing them down. That, to me, also points to the fact that taste and, consequently, aversion to certain tastes, is learned.
 

another_someone

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #6 on: 21/08/2007 19:40:31 »
I do think that kids need to be exposed to germs, there is far too much fussiness now about children being clean and away from any dirt. but cat poo! i think i would draw a line there.

I don't disagree about the specific risks (particularly with regard to Toxoplasma gondii, or other parasite, infection; but was merely querying the reason.
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #7 on: 21/08/2007 19:47:25 »

I don't disagree about the specific risks (particularly with regard to Toxoplasma gondii, or other parasite, infection; but was merely querying the reason.

I posted before seeing your reply, George. Sorry for the confusion. Actually i was checking my spelling as you posted. What i would say for cat or anyother poo is that to me they only smell once "broken"

An untouched poo just looks bad, but no smell.

I also do think this reaction is learned, and the aversion passed down by watching our parents and peers. I see this in Anastasia, she does not like things that her mother also does not like. I assume she is like this through watching the reaction of her mother, who is also a clean freak.

Any sign of dirt and it's bath and clean clothes on, no matter what time of day or how long since the last bath or change of clothes.
« Last Edit: 21/08/2007 19:49:12 by paul.fr »
 

another_someone

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #8 on: 21/08/2007 19:50:57 »
I can't, offhand, think of a society that doesn't have an aversion to faeces; but that would seem to prove the point that aversions are learned - or, should I say, may be learned. If babies do not have that aversion but all adults do, that surely indicates a learning process.

I think the emphasis here is 'may be learned'.  There are many other things that are true of adults that are not true of babies (or visa versa) which clearly are not learned.

If indeed there is absolutely no society that does not have an aversion to faeces, it would leave me to believe that this is not something that is variable between societies, and thus not something that is learned (to my mind, wherever a human society has a choice, there will always be some society that will take a different choice).

My point about delicacies was that people from 1 part of the world may consider delicacies from another part of the world as distasteful. For instance, on a visit to HK I tried sea cucumber, having been assured it was a delicacy. I thought it tasted disgusting, but my host was wolfing them down. That, to me, also points to the fact that taste and, consequently, aversion to certain tastes, is learned.

Even here, I would argue the matter cannot as simply be proven (since we know there are genetic differences between Chinese and Europeans, not least with regard to lactose intolerance - so the real question here is whether people who were genetically European or Chinese, but brought up in an cultural environment different from their genetic background, tended to reflect the tastes of their cultural parents of those of their genetic parent - again, identical twin studies, where available would be the ideal medium).

Nonetheless, that there are two cultures that have two different tastes in this matter seems to make it more likely that it is a culturally leaned taste than if all cultures had the same reaction to the same stimulus.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 12656
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • A stitch in time would have confused Einstein.
    • View Profile
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #9 on: 21/08/2007 19:55:45 »
I know that warriors of the Samburu tribe of Kenya smear cattle faeces on themselves for ceremonials.
 

another_someone

  • Guest
Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #10 on: 21/08/2007 20:02:39 »
I know that warriors of the Samburu tribe of Kenya smear cattle faeces on themselves for ceremonials.

Do you know if they have an aversion to this at other times (i.e. they do it to prove they can do something unpleasant), or do they simply not consider it unpleasant?

That having been said, many societies do use dried cattle dung for fuel, so maybe this is (at least in dried form) not something unpleasant.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Babies & icky stuff
« Reply #10 on: 21/08/2007 20:02:39 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums