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The Sunday Read: ‘How Disgust Explains Everything’

What is “disgust”? Molly Young, a journalist with The New York Times, considers the evolutionary and social uses of this “universal aspect of life” to identify the impact of disgust in its physical, psychological and linguistic manifestations.

Young explains the different forms of disgust, analyzing how the reactions they elicit play out in the body and mind, and why it is in many ways cultural. She explains how disgust shapes our behavior, technology, relationships and even political leanings. It’s behind everyday purity rites; the reason we use toilet paper, wash our hands and hold cutlery; it has shadowed the rules that have governed emotion in every culture throughout time.

Charles Darwin, the scholar William Ian Miller, the research psychologist Paul Rozin and the philosopher Aurel Kolnai, among the many others who felt compelled, Young explained, to investigate this most primal emotion.

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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