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February 3, 2024 54 mins

Disgust is an odd thing. It makes sense that we would feel a sense of revulsion at the thought of putting rotten meat in our mouths – that’s pure evolution. But why would we feel the same emotion at the thought of weird sex or from hearing a racist rant? Find out more in this classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
How did everybody Ugh Blair, Blair Blair blah. Yeah, I
think you know where this is headed. It's our episode
on disgust. This is a Josh pic way back in
the day. This is March twenty nineteen. And I thought, initially, well,

what in the world are we going to talk about
with disgust? I don't I'm not sure I get this one, Josh,
but he knew, as he always does, that there was
something more to it than meets the eye.

Speaker 2 (00:32):
And he was right.

Speaker 1 (00:33):
So check it out and learn all about disgust right here,
right now.

Speaker 2 (00:39):

Speaker 1 (00:43):
Welcome to Stuff you Should Know, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 3 (00:53):
You and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, and
there's Charles w Chuck Bryan over there, and there's Jerry
and this is discussed on Stuff you should Know about disgust.

Speaker 2 (01:07):
You gotta say it like that.

Speaker 3 (01:09):
I'm excited about this one, Chuck, And I don't know why.

Speaker 2 (01:12):
I have no idea.

Speaker 3 (01:13):
I think you do. If you stopped and really thought
about it, that's fine, that's fine. But if you stopped
and thought about it, you would say, yes, I know
exactly why, Josh. And it is as follows Colon quotes
because this is one of those things that science hasn't
fully explained, which means there's a lot of interesting theories,
which means we just get to like talk smack the
whole time.

Speaker 1 (01:35):
It's interesting. This is one of those where I was
reading it and I was I mean, it was sort
of interesting. But then I was like, why would anyone
even study this?

Speaker 3 (01:44):
I that's I mean, that's a good question. That's a
good question. I think one of the reasons that I'm
fascinated by it, And then I'm sure one of the
reasons of these I mean, to dedicate your career to
studying disgust. It is kind of a bizarre idea, but
one of the main researchers in the study of disgust
is a guy named Paul Rosen. He's kind of like

the godfather, maybe even the father of the field. Yeah,
he says, sure, but he's been doing it longer than anybody,
so he's the He's the pappy as they say in
the hills. He said that to him, discussed is the thing,
the emotion, the experience that makes humans human, that that

it is discussed that separates us from the other animals
that we share the animal kingdom with so much so
that we actually may use disgust to separate ourselves from
the rest of the animals. Okay, that is pretty fascinating
and it's worth exploring too, because I think it says
a lot about us as as humans and as animals. Yeah,

so that's why that's the answer to your question. How
about that?

Speaker 2 (02:54):
All right?

Speaker 1 (02:55):
No, I get why somebody would want to say, I
guess I'm talking about allocating funds.

Speaker 2 (02:59):
Just study it.

Speaker 3 (03:00):
Oh gotcha.

Speaker 1 (03:02):
It just seems like a strange thing to sink money into.

Speaker 3 (03:05):
Well, I mean, if the humanities are going to sink
money into anything, what makes us the most human would be?

Speaker 1 (03:10):
It makes it makes sense according to one guy, Right,
I love it. Let's talk about gross things.

Speaker 3 (03:17):
Okay, so we're going to So so this, this whole
idea of studying it, of studying disgust, is actually pretty new.
Rosen didn't really start until like the seventies, and it
wasn't until the nineties that it really got it really
picked up, which we'll kind of get into. But prior
to that, it was basically just philosophers who who were

talking about disgust.

Speaker 1 (03:39):
Right, yes, I think, and I'm not sure about studying,
But at least as far as I think, it seems
to me like it was more of a like where's
the boundary as far as what can we write about?
What can we talk about, and what can we perform
right and still sell books and tickets right?

Speaker 3 (03:55):
Like we want we want people to be tantalized at
the thought of being grossed out or disgusted, but not
actually be disgusted. It is a fine line that's walked, you.

Speaker 2 (04:06):
Know, no, of course, and it's subjective, it is.

Speaker 3 (04:09):
But the other thing about Discuss that's pretty interesting is
it also appears to be universal. It's like it's a
universal reaction. But what disgusts people is not universal. It's
culturally bound I guess, right, maybe personal too, sure.

Speaker 2 (04:22):
I think totally personal.

Speaker 3 (04:24):
So the over time, like as you know, Discuss kind
of moved out of the realm of philosophers and into science.
There were a couple people who kind of made contributions
early on in the field. When was Charles Darwin. He
wrote a treatise on it, and his big thing was
that disgust was related to taste, which is true to

an extent, but that was Darwin's big thing, and then
later on there was a guy, a psychoanalyst named andros angy'all,
and Andres Angyall basically said that no, no, no, discuss
is not really related to taste. It's the it comes
from the idea or the thought of putting something horrific

into the mouth, which again kind of makes sense to
a certain extent. But then when Rosen and friends came along,
it really started to take off and they actually managed
to kind of categorize disgust into a few categories, which
is what you do when you categorize things.

Speaker 1 (05:23):
Yeah, there's the first one is core discussed, and that's
what you think of if you like, you know, if
poop or I mean, everyone has their own triggers, but
if like vomit or feces or like a like entrails
or something like that's cored discussed. That's an encounter with
some sort of like physical contaminant that makes you, you know,

make that face right, and.

Speaker 3 (05:49):
That face specifically, that's another universal thing too, apparently, the faces.
It's called the gape, which is your mouth is open,
your tongue may or may not be sticking out, your
nose is wrinkled, and your upper lip is raised.

Speaker 2 (06:03):
Actually I don't do that with my mouth open, though,
so you just.

Speaker 3 (06:07):
Kind of do the nose wrinkle in the upper lip.

Speaker 2 (06:10):
I guess like this, but I don't open my mouth.

Speaker 1 (06:14):
So that's why I sort of like, I don't know
when it comes to stuff like this, I'm a little
when they make these sweeping statements like everyone makes this face. Well,
everyone may make a variation of a face of a.

Speaker 3 (06:27):
Like kind of a there's like a universal set of
characteristics to the face that you could choose from that
would fall into disgust like that.

Speaker 1 (06:37):
I don't know if you choose anything but maybe your
natural reaction. But like I don't open my mouth, And
when I read that, like everyone opens their mouth, like, no,
that's not true.

Speaker 3 (06:45):
So I think one of the reasons why there is
like this idea of it being universal is because evolutionary
psychology is we'll see has said like, yes, this is
our realm, We've got this, we're gonna explain this one
and two fully, it basically has to be universal. So
I think that's another thing about the point where the
study of disgust is right now, Like there's a lot

of good ideas, some of which have kind of been
shown to be probably true thanks to the Wonder Machine,
but it's still it's not fully explained, and so there
are some ideas and descriptions that make it seem kind
of wacky too, right.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (07:23):
That second kind of discuss getting back to that, was
animal nature discussed, which is apparently these are things that
anything that reminds us that we're really animals, and that
could there could be a wide range of things there,
from like some people think people eating with their hands
is disgusting, and I think that would qualify under animal

nature because like you're eating like an animal.

Speaker 2 (07:48):
Let's say.

Speaker 1 (07:50):
Sex, and we'll get into that more later, but apparently
there's a baseline discussed for sex, which I'm not so
sure about that one either. And then hygiene is another one.
Poor hygiene is the animal nature discussed.

Speaker 3 (08:06):
Yeah, And another one is the like like you said, entrails,
something that's called the the body envelope, the ideal body
envelope being violated, whether it's like there's a deformity or
there is like some sort of like an open wound
or something like that. They think that this whole animal
nature thing, that all these things remind us that we

are animals and that disgust can be triggered by that
reminder that we are that we are in fact animals,
which is kind of weird. But we'll get into explanations
for that later. I can't wait.

Speaker 2 (08:41):
That's right.

Speaker 1 (08:42):
And the final one is moral discussed, which and this
is one where you know, you can be disgusted with
someone's behavior or you know, disgusted with like something a
politician does, or disgusted with racism or bigotry something like that.

Speaker 3 (08:59):
Right, And that one makes like the least amount of
sense if you think about it like that. Okay, the
first two were just kind of like, all right, we're like,
it's animal related. We might have issues with being animals,
so we're kind of disgusted by ourselves at the thought
that we're animals. Maybe it's a bit more of a
stretch than that core discussed, Like core disgusted makes this
most sense out of all of them. Agreed.

Speaker 1 (09:21):
Uh yeah, And I don't even think that the moral discussed.
I think that's a different type of thing altogether.

Speaker 3 (09:28):
So that other people have proposed that that like they're
like some people have said, well, English speakers are just
misusing the word discussed. They're actually talking right, well, they've
done They've done studies of people in the Wonder Machine
that shows that the region of the brain, the anterior insula,
that's usually that usually lights up when you're showing a

picture of like dog poop and said you're gonna eat this,
you know your your anterior insula lights up. That same
region lights up when people are disgusted with other people morally.
Remember the ultimatum game. I don't remember. It used to
come up all the time back in the day in
our episodes. Yeah, but so if somebody was given a

really really low offer I take it or leave it
offer that was so low and so unfair that the
person said, I'm just leaving it. I actually don't want
this free money because I find it insulting. That same
part of the brain that is triggered by like fecal
disgust is also triggered, which supports the idea that there

actually is a moral dimension to disgust and that we
experience it in the same way.

Speaker 2 (10:37):
Yeah, that's interesting.

Speaker 3 (10:39):
It is interesting, But it is like the it's the
most tenuous of those three, I think.

Speaker 1 (10:44):
So the way this all started out, there are a
bunch of theories, but it makes sense that it might
have been sort of an offshoot of distaste, which is,
you know, your body is conditioned thanks to you know,
evolution to if you eat something that's bitter or rotten,

like your instinct, your taste instinct is to throw it
out and get rid of it, and it's a defense
mechanism to save your life. And so the ideas that
discuss developed out of that and that it's just simply
an evolutionary trait that could have you know, saved Tiktook's life,
you know, however many years ago.

Speaker 3 (11:25):
Yeah, And there's evidence apparently that this distaste, which is
basically is an involuntary reaction, is like dropping something that's hot,
Like you don't stop and think like wow, this cooking
pan is about five well and five hundred and fifty
degrees fahrenheight, and then you drop it. I should probably
drop it like you just dropped the pant. Distaste is

the same exact thing, and they've actually seen it elsewhere
in the animal kingdom. So we've probably experienced distaste since
before we were humans, and it's just spitting something out
that doesn't seem right in an effort to I guess,
keep the body from becoming polluted with disease, right, and
they think that distaste somehow became a behavior that was

laid over this ex or I'm sorry, disgust as was
a behavior that became laid over this existing structure of distaste.

Speaker 1 (12:18):
Yeah, And that's interesting to me because that means that
it becomes all of a sudden. It's not like you
have to eat poop to be disgusted, right, Like the
mere sight of poop now can discuss somebody.

Speaker 2 (12:31):
Yes, uh, and that just happened over time, I think.

Speaker 3 (12:35):
So that is why Rosen says this is like disgust
is the defining characteristic of humanity because they suspect that
other animals, at the very least almost all other animals
don't have the cognitive capacity to use their imagination to
imagine themselves eating poop and see and being disgusted by

it as a result. Right, So that's why they say
disgust separates humans from animals because it requires imagination to
go from an involuntary reaction of spitting out food to
not even getting to the point where the food is
in your mouth. You can imagine that you would have
that reaction and experience the emotion of disgust. So you

don't have to go through that process, that actually very
dangerous process of eating something rotten to figure out that
you shouldn't be eating it. You can imagine it beforehand.
And that's the function that discussed at least core disgust
provides humanity. It advances us. We don't have to learn
through trial and error over and over again not to
eat rotten meat. We just know on some very basic

level that that is a disgusting thing to do, and
we have a reaction to it.

Speaker 1 (13:44):
Or you want to take a break, Yeah, all right, everyone,
we're going to be right back right after this with
more disgust. So I think we should go back to
Tiktook and just like how this actually may have worked

back in the day, Let's say Tiktook and his buddy
Mockmock are strolling along the tundra.

Speaker 3 (14:15):
You know, Chuck, after eleven years, I am surprised that
we have a new character, and I am very pleased
Mock Mock.

Speaker 1 (14:21):
Yeah, well, don't get used to him, because Mack Mack
is he's about to die for Mock Mak. So TikTok
and Mackmacher walking along the tundra they find an old,
dead antelope, and Mockmock is like, well, this doesn't smell great,
but I tell you what, I'm going to eat this

thing because I don't have this genetic trait because my
mom ate this stuff, uh and it's fine, And Tooktooks like,
I don't know, my friend, it looks and smells gross.
I do have this genetic trait, so I'm going to
pass on that. So Mockmock's like, you're a sucker. I'm
going to chow down on this rotten antelope. And then

Mockmock gets sick and dies before Mockmock can have any babies.
And then if this happens thousands and tens of thousands
of times over a huge population, you can see how
over time it would be like any physical evolutionary trait
that might evolve over time, and all of a sudden,
Tuktook's family is thriving today in the United States, all

healthy descendants of Tuktook and Mockmock is long gone.

Speaker 3 (15:31):
Right because Tuktook was able to pass along his genes
of being disgusted by rotten meat, and Mockmock died before
he could pass his genes of not being disgusted along.
So nature or natural selection or revolutions selected for Tuktooks right.

Speaker 2 (15:50):
Right, And Tiktook was a prolific lover, as we all know.

Speaker 3 (15:53):
And I imagine Mockmock in his dying words gasping, I
regret never having.

Speaker 2 (15:59):
Seen the ocean. Yeah. Probably, so.

Speaker 3 (16:04):
It's a good mockmch Everyone doesn't know, but it's true.
That was a great so chuck. That's the that's the
evolutionary psychology basis for explaining how disgust came along and
was passed along, right, And it makes sense on a
very basic level, but it starts to get less and
less sensible, as you've already pointed out, as we start

to add more and more inputs of disgust. Right, like, yes,
it makes sense that either somehow the idea of not
eating meat was passed along, either genetically or even you
could say Tuktook went back to the hunter gatherer tribe
and said, hey, let me tell you what happened to Mockmock.
It was crazy. He ate some rancid antelope, which I

guess we all kind of thought was okay up to
this point. But let me tell you, steer clear of
the rancid antelope. You don't want to have anything to
do that because it just killed Mockmack, and everyone trusting
tuktook in, not just assuming that he hit Mockmock with
a rock or something out in the wilderness and left
him to die, that he actually did die from eating antelope.
This became passed along. This is another way it could

have happened, and that this like ancient knowledge. We just
lost where the ancient knowledge came from, that was actually
TikTok seeing Mockmock die, and instead it just became something
that we came to think of as like instinct over time,
you just don't eat rancid meat. But really what it is,
rather than being passed along genetically, it was a I guess,
a meme, an idea that was passed along generation to generation,

and it became so ingrained that we just confuse it
for genes or instinct as well, which is another explanation
of it. But both of them have like an evolutionary
component to it for sure.

Speaker 1 (17:45):
Yeah, and then over time that even changes to where
like it's not like humans, like let's talk about a
human body then like a dead a dead human body
a corpse.

Speaker 3 (17:57):
Let me get my poking stick.

Speaker 2 (18:00):
Well, you probably.

Speaker 1 (18:01):
Wouldn't poke it because your evolutionary instinct is to probably
just stay away.

Speaker 2 (18:04):
From that body.

Speaker 3 (18:05):
Well, that's what the stick is for.

Speaker 2 (18:06):
And it's not just because like, well.

Speaker 1 (18:09):
Maybe partially because a dead body just might creep someone out,
but there's also an evolutionary basis to avoid that body,
get it out of the house, and bury it because
it may have been diseased.

Speaker 2 (18:22):
And they've even done studies.

Speaker 1 (18:23):
That was a study in two thousand and four in
Biology Letters, just the greatest teen science mag out there.

Speaker 3 (18:31):
The Tiger Beat in Biological Science.

Speaker 1 (18:35):
So Biology Letters said that they didn't study where they
found the images of objects that held what was called
a potential disease threat, where rated is more disgusting. So
this is just the idea that, again, because of evolution,
we are have trained ourselves to avoid somebody who looks sick.

Speaker 3 (18:56):
Okay, now we get to another big chink in the armor.
Ask me, where did we get the idea that a
body caused disease and that you could become polluted by
some weird magical transference of this disease by handling or
coming in close contact with the body.

Speaker 2 (19:13):
Like pre germ theory.

Speaker 3 (19:15):
Pre germ theory, germ theory is very new, it's about
one hundred and fifty years old. Almost on the nose.
We're talking about people's aversion to dead bodies and corpses
for eons before that, hundreds of years, if not thousands
and thousands of years, right.

Speaker 2 (19:29):
Well, maybe even more like what if, like I mean,
what if someone just going.

Speaker 1 (19:37):
Like back in the day where people like, oh, that's great,
come here and give me, give me some sugar, right,
or were people always sort of repulsed by that?

Speaker 3 (19:45):
Yeah, I don't know, and we don't we don't know.
We can't say. We can only go as far back
as any historical references we can find. But you can
make a pretty good case that an aversion to something
like that or a dead body goes back much further
than germ theory. Yeah, so you come to that question,
where did we get this idea? Where did we get

this understanding on a very basic fundamental level that corpses
are to be avoided so much so that we are
disgusted by them. And even if you're not disgusted, like
I want to wretch if I see a dead body
in person, which you may be surprised. I think a
lot of people would be very surprised that if they
actually did see a dead body, they would be they

would probably wretch.

Speaker 2 (20:27):
It depends on you know, what's going on the state
it's in.

Speaker 3 (20:31):
Yeah, if it's a viscerated or something like that, or
the smell I think also true. But the idea that
there's something that is keeping you from avoiding it, whether
it's the creeps, whether it's discussed, whether it's some form
of a version that is that is acting to put
distance between you and the polluting entity. This dead body.

Where did that come from before germ theory? That's my
big question that I haven't seen it answered anywhere. It's
where did we get that? Again? Was it somebody handled
the dead body and like became directly sick from it,
so obviously that even like took Cook could say, yes,
the dead body caused this, so we should steer clear
of hanging out around dead bodies. Or was there some

sort of awareness on a very basic level that we
haven't figured out how to explain yet that that kept
generations and generations of humans relatively healthy before the advent
of germ theory and our understanding of it.

Speaker 1 (21:34):
It is a bit of a mind experiment. It is like, uh,
this perhaps the very sound of someone very ill and
hawking up.

Speaker 2 (21:45):
You know, phlegm sounds.

Speaker 1 (21:47):
Gross, right, But like like you say, though, before germ theory,
before they knew that that would make that was sickness
or that made someone sick, maybe people were like, oh,
come in here and do that in my face. I
love that sound, right, but it just doesn't seem likely.

Speaker 3 (22:03):
It's like ASMR to me.

Speaker 1 (22:05):
I don't know, man, It's very hard to wrap your
head around.

Speaker 3 (22:07):
And also, if you remember in our Great Stink episode,
right prior to germ theory, there is miasma theory, which
was the smell of something directly polluted you and made
you sick. Well, okay, associated with it. But even that,
it's like, so, okay, what made you think that the smell?
What makes you think that a dead body, which in
and of itself isn't giving off any actual signals that

it will make you sick if it's decayed enough and
you like interact with it. What about that made us
associate sickness a transference of sickness. That transference is it's
an invisible magical transference of pollution from the dead body
to you, the person who's handling the dead body. That
is significant and remarkable that we came up with that.

That's what I think is just so fascinating about all this.

Speaker 1 (22:54):
Yeah, and I think this thing about the contingencies plays
into because and it's fun.

Speaker 2 (23:00):
I have to admit, when I.

Speaker 1 (23:02):
Read this the word contingencies in my head, I was
adding a letter or something and I kept saying in
my head as contingenesis, and I was like, what is
that contingenesis? And finally I saw contingencies correctly. I was like, man,
am I drunk? Like what's going on? So? Anyway, there

are contingenesies.

Speaker 3 (23:28):
That's like a facetious I had that same Oh really, yeah,
what'd you think it said? Or sounded like facetious or
something like that, and I kept sounding it out and
then finally I was like, oh, that's facetious.

Speaker 1 (23:42):
Yeah, but you were probably like twelve and not a
professional broadcaster.

Speaker 3 (23:47):
Yeah, I stink you had something in your eye that
was all So.

Speaker 1 (23:51):
These contingencies in humans at any time, there are many
contingencies at work within us, competing against each other. So
if you go back to tuktook and mockmock Mackmack died,
or let's say he did feel some disgust, but it

wasn't like but he was also hungry. So that's the
competing contingenesis and his desire to eat and not desire
his need to eat overcame his low level disgust of like, well,
it doesn't taste great, but I have this other contingency
that says I have to eat, so I'm going to

eat the thing and he doesn't die, right, then it's
a little more complicated.

Speaker 3 (24:39):
It is more complicated, and if you step back and
think about it evolutionarily, it would make way more sense
for us to not maintain a sense of disgust and
be able to eat like rancid meat and then instead
learn like basically develop a gut biome that will will
kill any bacterial decay that could make us sick, so

that we we could have like that many more things
that are available for us to eat when we're hard up.
That makes way more sense through natural selection and evolution
than learning to not eat something.

Speaker 1 (25:13):
And you know what I mean, that's sort of the
thing too, though, Like the the winning contingency is ultimately
going to be the one that makes you more fit
for you know, replication, right, right, So.

Speaker 3 (25:25):
You you for cloning self cloning, so the but yes,
so if you have more available food that you can
gain energy from in the environment, that would make more
sense to adapt to that rather than to adapt and
aversion to a potential food source. Right, So that's one question.
And then you can also kind of lay that right

over sex as well too, Right, So this this explanation
of why we might be averse, why we have competing
contingencies for sex, right, Like, you want to be attracted
to your mate because you're a person you find attractive
is probably going to be a good match for you

reproductive wise.

Speaker 2 (26:13):
Right, especially if they smell good.

Speaker 3 (26:15):
Right, And then yes, and then if you if you
are trying to reproduce with somebody you're disgusted by, they
might not be a good match reproductive wiy was evolutionarily
it makes sense, that's a that's a that's a mental
gymnastics right there. To me, it makes more sense to
just say, here's an example of evolution screwing us up,

of natural selection screwing us up. We developed an ability
to feel disgusted by sex because it reminds us that
we're animals, and so we're missing out on sex or
at least deriving pleasure from sex because we are possibly
disgusted by the act of sex if we step back
and think about it in the right way. Right, you
see what I'm saying. Sure, So there's a lot of

holes here, which is why I mean, I've got both
of my six shooters. I'm about to start shoot them
in the air out of glee because it's been a
while since we had an episode like this.

Speaker 1 (27:09):
Yeah. Another thing that I found interesting too from this
was the just the mere reaction. Apparently most people open
their mouths I keep mind shut. But regardless, we all
have the disgust reaction. I guess if you don't, then
you're probably a serial killer. Like if you saw someone
like open up and smell like rotten meat and literally

just kept this stone face, We're like, hmm, that smells
really bad. Like they're clearly sociopaths.

Speaker 3 (27:35):
Right, And that's what Rosen was saying. That's why disgust
is it's the defining human characteristic because that person would
seem non human in that sense, they'd be a robot
kind of.

Speaker 2 (27:48):

Speaker 1 (27:49):
But so if people make this face like that is
the cue, Like you don't even need to smell the milk.
If I walk in the kitchen and Emily pours some
milk in it, well I was gonna say, I see
it clump out of the the thing, but that wouldn't count.
Like if I see Emily just smell the milk, she
makes her disgust face, I don't need to smell it.

Speaker 3 (28:11):
No, but why is it that there is a one
hundred percent chance that Emily or anyone else, yes, who
will say, smell this?

Speaker 2 (28:18):

Speaker 3 (28:18):
I never feel like, No, that's okay, thanks for the
warning with the wrinkled nose and raised up her lip.

Speaker 1 (28:23):
I know, but when you're married, it's like no, true, Suly,
I smelled it, like you have to smell it, right, No,
I don't want to smell it.

Speaker 3 (28:29):
I've suffered.

Speaker 1 (28:31):
So that becomes like, all of a sudden, a something
that like bonds communities together and cultures together even.

Speaker 3 (28:39):
Right, but which which is another? Okay? So this then
we get to the explanation or the moral explanation of
disgust of how seeing somebody involve in cheating or some
sort of unfairness or racism or just something some really
anti social violating behavior that you you experienced disgusted at

the very least people say, use the word disgusted, I'm disgusted.

Speaker 2 (29:07):
It makes a face, I mean, is the same thing.

Speaker 3 (29:10):
So that's that's I mean, that's what that one Wonder
Machine study said, and the other the other way that
they backed it up. There's a really interesting article by
Rosen Johnathan Height, who actually was a contributor in our
super Stuff Guide to Happiness if you'll remember. And then
a guy named Oh McCauley, what is Clark McCauley. They're

kind of like this big three triad in the study
of disgust.

Speaker 2 (29:35):
They're known as the only three.

Speaker 3 (29:37):
There's a couple others, but yeah, kind of. But they
in this paper they basically say, okay, so you get
the Wonder machine evidence suggesting that our actual brain, the
part of our brain responsible for experiencing disgust, is lighting
up when somebody gives us an unfair offer of money.
That's one thing. But also they go around the world

and say that in Japan, in in Spain and Portugal,
all over the world, whatever that society or language is,
culture's word is for disgust. They routinely use it to
describe things like the experience of seeing somebody hold poop
up to their mouth and the experience of being treated

unfairly or seeing somebody racist. So it's not just people
in English misusing an English word discuss, which means actually
bad taste in Old or Middle English. It's it is
there is some sort of moral component to disgust. It
seems like.

Speaker 1 (30:34):
Well, even the word distasteful like is rooted in the
word taste, right, and that's just a similar thing too.
Like behavior can be distasteful and rotten. Analope can be
distasteful exactly.

Speaker 2 (30:47):
Especially if he's a real jerk.

Speaker 3 (30:49):

Speaker 1 (30:50):
The other interesting thing about the work that Jonathan Hate
did was this tying it to political ideological ideal ideology.

Speaker 2 (30:59):
Geez, what is wrong with me today?

Speaker 1 (31:01):
I thought that was super interesting because they did research
and they found that people who are more sensitive to
disgust and tend to be more socially conservative, and that
can be exploited. So when you go to a major
news outlet that may be conservative, that is why you
are more likely to see photos of unwashed or sick

immigrants approaching the border, and not like pictures of like
the handsomest, most fit immigrant approaching the border, because that will,
at least according to this study, they have a higher,
more powerful emotion of disgust.

Speaker 3 (31:46):
Right, it's hijacking your ability to experience moral disgust because
apparently it's really really easy to come up and poke
to push a person's disgust buttons. And from what the
study says is that this happens a lot way more
than we're cognizant of and that if we can make
ourselves cognizant of it, we could actually defend against it

a little more.

Speaker 1 (32:08):
Yeah, I mean, they're not going to Fox News isn't
going to put the guy that you said it, you
said it. They're not going to put the guy that
looks like Antonio Banderas in the immigrant caravan Hello as
they're fron okay as their front page lead photo. You know,
it's going to be the person that's on the in
the on the stretcher that's sick and dying, and that's

going to cause this reaction of disgust, like.

Speaker 3 (32:34):
The gi they cgi flies like flying around the person.
Can't you see Antonio Banderas walking up in the video
and going this wall is too sexy.

Speaker 1 (32:48):
And then the other interesting thing about that that whole
study that he was doing, the hate was doing was
they also found that people make harsher judgments when they're
exposed to a disgusting stimulus sou and it usually was
a smell like the smell of.

Speaker 2 (33:03):
A of a two dy booty, a shot duck.

Speaker 1 (33:08):
And if you smell this flatulence, you would react more
harshly toward like a photo of something.

Speaker 2 (33:16):
Right now that I might discuss you just a little bit.

Speaker 3 (33:18):
I want to know the methodology of this study pretty badly,
Like did they Was it just one of those things
where they just kind of suddenly the area between you
and the researcher filled with the fart smell?

Speaker 1 (33:30):
Well, where do you get the fart smell? Is there
a synthetic or I think there is?

Speaker 3 (33:33):
You probably like a't some novelly joke shop they picked
up like a spinning bow tie while they got the
caned fart too.

Speaker 1 (33:40):
Right, They're like, thank you, here's for ten dollars and
have a good day, and they shake their hand.

Speaker 2 (33:44):
There's a buzzer, right exactly.

Speaker 3 (33:46):
So, But I mean, like, is this so where they
they were talking about something like you know how what
kind of a prison sentence would you, Oh excuse me,
what kind of a prison sentence would you give to somebody?
And like this, this fart smell, this kind of comes up,
but like they're just not talking about it. I would
guess as how, you would have to do it right, dude.

Speaker 1 (34:04):
I had a stranger asked me the other night if
I farted?

Speaker 3 (34:08):
Oh yeah, had you know?

Speaker 1 (34:10):
I was at the Fleetwood Mac concert standing in the
beer line, and this guy in front of me turned
around with his wife and fully just said did you fart?

Speaker 2 (34:17):
And I went nope, And I was like, I would
tell you if I did.

Speaker 3 (34:21):
Did. He look to his wife and go, did you fart? No?

Speaker 1 (34:23):
But then we got to talking and I was like, guys,
I hate to tell you. I said, I don't even
smell anything, so I think you're looking in the wrong direction.
And then he felt like I was a little drunk,
so I didn't care. I was playing along. But then
he felt like really bad and was over apologetic. I
was like, dude, if you're going to ask someone if
they farted, don't then turn around and be weirdly ashamed
of that.

Speaker 3 (34:42):
All right, get all weepy, just own it. So Yeah,
does the guy not know the whole he who smelt
it delted.

Speaker 1 (34:49):
Idiom nor it was the first date and that was
the deal.

Speaker 2 (34:54):
Maybe he did.

Speaker 3 (34:55):
Yeah, he really played it off well at sound we
take a break, I think we should. All right, I'm
gonna go fart in the whole way. We'll be right back.
Thank you for that, Chuck, We'll be right back. All right,

it's back. Chuck is back. Now, everything's fine in here,
and we are still talking about disgust. Let me, let's
let's let's just kind of go over this real quick
one more time. Okay. So we started out with this
this mechanisms of distaste where we like, involuntarily spit something

out that's gross that occurs elsewhere in the animal kingdom.
And then over time we figured out how to create
a new adaptation, a new behavior that is overlaid over
that same brain circuitry where we spit something out and
we call that disgust. And it was it originally started
out as an aversion to things like poop and vomit

and that kind of stuff, and then that evolved even
further because at some point we said we're better than animals,
and I don't like to be reminded of an animal,
and I guess that desire to not be reminded of
an animal developed so much that it became overlaid over
that disgusted emotion that had been that had hijacked the
distaste emotion, and then at some point finally it reached

the moral structure, and that hijacked the animal and the
core and the distaste to where now just the idea
of somebody behaving in a certain way can disgust us.
And the whole thing that really kind of changed and
made it human was the addition of imagination and symbolism

to these ideas, so that we didn't even have to
taste or smell or see anything anymore. Just thinking about
this kind of stuff could disgust us. And that's where
we're at discussed research, and that's where we're at in
the podcast too.

Speaker 2 (37:03):
Frankly, Wow, that's a nice recap, Thank you, all right.

Speaker 1 (37:09):
So, culturally, you know, it depends on where you are
in the world and what you might be disgusted by.
So while while it is universal, it's not like every
single thing is universal. People eat things in some parts
of the world that other parts of the world might
think are disgusting, and that again is a thing that
basically says, I'm a part of this family, I'm a

part of this culture.

Speaker 2 (37:32):
I'm a part of this group.

Speaker 1 (37:34):
The fact that like Elie eyeballs right out of a fish,
right out of a fish, said, just scoop it out
and eat it, right, I might think that's disgusting, but
that's not like necessarily like taboos are not the same,
and cultures all over the world.

Speaker 3 (37:52):
Yeah, whether it's food, apparently they think maybe even you know, well, cannibalism. Obviously,
some cultures don't view incest as taboo as other cultures do.
So some of the things that we would think would
be universally disgusting aren't universally disgusting. And the whole idea
of food too, shows that you can learn to not

find something disgusting or never find it disgusting at all
because you were just raised in a culture that eats
this food and values it. But to somebody else from
outside of the culture, when they see that food, they
are disgusted by it. So, yeah, there's a lot of
lack of universality in disgust that we might assume would
be there that actually isn't.

Speaker 1 (38:31):
Yeah, I mean vegetarianism and veganism is a perfect example.
Someone can eat meat until they're in their mid twenties
and then all of a sudden switch to veganism, and
a year later, the mere sight of meat might discuss them,
whereas the year before they were challenged down on it.

Speaker 3 (38:49):
Which I would guess that's just like you were structuring
your brain circuitry basically, right.

Speaker 2 (38:54):
Yeah, I think so probably, I mean that would make sense.

Speaker 3 (38:56):
But so something that never disgusted you before can become
guinely disgusted.

Speaker 2 (39:01):
Or the other way around, U I imagine.

Speaker 3 (39:04):
Well, yeah, I mean you can learn to eat other
cultures foods that you were disgusted by previously. And I
know you can learn to eat and eat meat now
right right, Yeah, yeah, you can also learn to eat
broccoli over time.

Speaker 1 (39:16):
BROCCOLI's good, it's it's not though it really is roasted
in the oven the lish.

Speaker 3 (39:23):
Okay, I will give you that. Roasted broccoli is okay.
But if it's steamed or just like floppy in any way,
shape or form, I've had bad experiences with it over
over the years.

Speaker 1 (39:32):
It sounds like someone's overcooking your broccoli.

Speaker 3 (39:35):
Not anymore. But yes, I think should Dad used to
used to overcook it quite a bit.

Speaker 2 (39:40):
Yeah, I go for al dente when it comes to
most of the vegetables.

Speaker 3 (39:43):
Yeah, but roast roasted is good.

Speaker 1 (39:45):
Mushy is is a food quality that kind of disgusts me.
So food preparation is important. Like I know, we're just
kind of kidding about the broccoli, but like, let's say
an egg plant or a squash, If you cook that
thing till it's really mushy, it's it's really gross to me.

But I will totally eat an eggplant if it's nice
and firm.

Speaker 3 (40:10):
Yeah, yeah, I mean yeah, texture is enormous with it.
It also affects taste too, which doesn't make any sense
except for like it's part of the experience of it, right.

Speaker 2 (40:20):
Yeah, but true disgust happens for me.

Speaker 1 (40:22):
I think it's not just like I don't I don't
prefer that, like mushy food really really grosses me out.

Speaker 3 (40:28):
Well, there's something that that that Ed actually hit upon
early on in this is that like disgust is it
goes around our conscious thought, right, Yeah, like you're not like, hmm,
this this broccoli is not to my preference. It is
way too floppy and mushy, and i'd be I prefer
to not have it in my mouth anymore so, and

you spit it out and it just falls back onto
your plate instead you put it in your mouth, especially
if you're not expecting it to be mushy and you
start chewing it like you expect it to be good.
You're reaction without even thinking it's going to be spit
it out probably, and you might you might not actually
spit it out, but that will be your first reaction,
and you might have to stop yourself, like bring your

napkin up to your mouth or whatever. And that's one
of the things that like really kind of is a
hallmark characteristic of disgust. When it is experienced, it goes
around our intellect and our conscious thought. It's a basic reaction.

Speaker 1 (41:24):
Yeah, and it can also get out of hand as
far as the if the idea is that at its root,
we're trying to avoid disease and dying. We've all heard
of cases phobia is really that developed and pathologies out
of fear of germs or dirt or cleanliness. Anyone who's

ever seen the great movie Safe by Todd Haynes. That
was a movie about that where this woman sort of
slowly unwinds and eventually ends up in a in a
like a community where everyone is obsessed with this kind
of compulsive cleanliness.

Speaker 3 (42:01):
Who's the woman.

Speaker 2 (42:03):
It's Julian Moore.

Speaker 3 (42:05):
I haven't seen that yet. Is it pretty good? It was?

Speaker 2 (42:07):
It was great. I mean it was.

Speaker 1 (42:08):
It's a long time ago. So it's like in the
early nineties, I think. Okay, like some of her earlier work.
But that's just an example of how how that can
happen and how it can get out of hand until
basically you have a compulsive disorder that may have started
out of a legit environmental like disgust reaction to disease.

Speaker 3 (42:30):
Right, Yeah, well that's what they think is the basis
of possibly all of it that has to do with disgust,
a like a drive to to feel clean or to
get rid of germs or to be afraid of germs,
that kind of thing. That it's it's your your the
being indoctrinated into disgust went a little too far and
your brain, your brain's disgust reaction just became too powerful,

and now it has this kind of crippling effect on
your life.

Speaker 1 (42:56):
Yeah, but it can also like it's oddly there are
things that have nothing to do with disease and dying
that have been kind of labeled as disgusting and Ed
points out. Acne is one of them that might trigger
a disgusted reaction in some people. And it's really completely harmless.

Speaker 3 (43:13):
It is, but it's playing upon in an inadvertent way,
our predisposition to be grossed out by things like as yeah,
a sore, a pox, a pustul It has nothing to
do with that. It just kind of resembles it in
the exact same way. People find slugs and snails disgusting,
and they suggest that it's because they look like they're

covered in mucus. Even though it's not actually mucus, it
reminds us of mucus. So we're disgusted at the thought
of touching one of those things. Same thing. They're not
disease carriers, but they remind us of it. That's the key,
because disgust works hand in hand with human imagination.

Speaker 1 (43:50):
I got Emily one of those poppet pals. Have you
seen those?

Speaker 3 (43:53):
No? What is it?

Speaker 1 (43:54):
You know how she's pretty obsessed with with zip popping
and she doesn't watch She's not one of those people
who watches the stuff on YouTube, but it's just like
a personal thing. But they I saw it on Shark Tank.
There's this thing now looks it's about the size of
a bar of soap okay, but it's made out of
siliconus kind OF's this squishy rubber rectangular bar and you
squirt this like I don't know what it's made of.

Speaker 2 (44:16):
It's it's almost like crisco or something.

Speaker 1 (44:19):
I think it's plant based, and you fill it up
with that and the top of it is covered with
all these little dimple holes and you pop them and
it comes snaking out just like like the best pimple
you've ever seen.

Speaker 3 (44:32):
That's amazing. So I kept like trying to imagine that,
like this was going on the person's face. It's like
just to basically like, here, keep busy with this and
leave my face alone.

Speaker 2 (44:40):
Yeah, you just like whatever, you set it in your
lap and just pop away.

Speaker 3 (44:44):
That's really awesome.

Speaker 2 (44:45):
Yeah, it's It was.

Speaker 1 (44:47):
Really satisfying for it too. I thought she might be like, nah,
this is not the same, but she was obsessed with
it first.

Speaker 3 (44:52):
That's awesome. A couple of days that's is there any
great human thing that shark tank hasn't give given us.

Speaker 2 (44:58):
I don't know.

Speaker 3 (44:59):
I can't. I can't think of one you meet has
a thing for cauliflower ear, and she'll sometimes watch videos
of cauliflower ear being drained, and it's like, I can't,
hang man.

Speaker 2 (45:09):
You ever date a wrestler?

Speaker 3 (45:11):
No, not that I know of.

Speaker 2 (45:13):
But she missed your chance. I guess right, she better
have mister chance.

Speaker 1 (45:16):
By she comes in and she finds you like on
the carpet, rolling your ear on the floor. Isn't that
how wrestlers get it?

Speaker 3 (45:24):
I think they get it from like a trauma to
the ear, like a punch of the ear, like an
impact of the ear, and then like it swells up
and then it turns into like scar tissue or like
just pussy infected edema.

Speaker 2 (45:36):
Well, which is why they wear the ear covers.

Speaker 3 (45:38):
Yes, well that and to look cool.

Speaker 1 (45:41):
This do look kind of cool somehow, so it offsets
the singlet, which is the least cool thing you can wear.

Speaker 3 (45:49):
It's pretty uncool. I have to say, sorry wrestlers, but
the entire rest of the world thinks that the singlets
look uncool. It's not just us. Oh boy, So let's
talk about the discuss scale real quick, you have that?

Speaker 1 (46:02):
Yeah, you know, I didn't even look at this because
I thought it might be fun if you just went
through a few of those with me.

Speaker 3 (46:06):
Oh okay, well this is a great idea, Chuck. Take
it into a game still innovating after eleven years. I'm
so proud of us. So Paul Rosen and John Height
and a couple of other people came up with the
sorry Clark McCauley and Clark McCauley. I'm just gonna say
the third person. They came up with a discuss scale. Okay, yes, so, Chuck,

between zero and four, zero being strongly disagree and four
being strongly agree, meaning it's very untrue or very true
about you. Please indicate how much you agree with each
of the following statements, or how true it is.

Speaker 2 (46:43):
About between zero and what three? Four okay?

Speaker 3 (46:45):
Four zero strongly disagreed, it's very untrue about you. Four
is strongly agree very true about you. You might be willing, sorry,
I might be willing to try eating monkey meat under
some circumstances.

Speaker 2 (46:58):
Strongly disagree. Four. That's a zero okay, zero okay.

Speaker 3 (47:03):
It would bother me to be in a science class
and to see a human hand preserved in a jar.

Speaker 1 (47:09):
Obviously, that would not bother me, because when I saw
the human head in a bucket, very famously, my reaction was, huh,
there's a human head. Where's the person with me? Was
really disgusted, right, yeah.

Speaker 3 (47:22):
And I think understandably, so I love that story. Okay,
here's another one. I never let any part of my
body touch the toilet seat in public restrooms. Agree or disagree,
untrue or true.

Speaker 1 (47:37):
I'm just going to ditch the numbers because it's confusing me.
That doesn't really bother me that much. I know that
probably really discussed you.

Speaker 3 (47:45):
Well, yeah, I just have to go to another place.

Speaker 1 (47:47):
Oh see when I do that, I don't mind. Man,
I know that's gross probably, but whatever.

Speaker 3 (47:53):
Okay, here's one more from this one. Then we're going
to do another set. You're ready, Okay, I would rather
eat a piece of fruit then a piece of paper.

Speaker 2 (48:03):
Well, yeah, I'd rather eat a piece of fruit.

Speaker 3 (48:06):
Okay, Okay, I think that's just like a baseline one
that they use. Okay, so then between zero and four
rate these not disgusting? It all are extremely disgusting. Just
say one of those two. Okay, you see maggots on
a piece of meat in an outdoor garbage pail. Very disgusting, you,
I agree, your friend's pet cat dies and you have

to pick up the dead body with your bare hands.

Speaker 1 (48:30):
Not disgusted, just sad. Okay, I mean I've done that
with all of my animals that have passed. I took
care of the bodies, right.

Speaker 3 (48:36):
I think this leaves out that it was hit by
a car and is now part of the road.

Speaker 1 (48:40):
Basically, Uh, yeah, that's a medium disgusting and sad.

Speaker 3 (48:44):
Okay, yeah, well, yeah, it's sad. You're about to drink
a glass of milk when you smell it is spoiled,
and then in parentheses, weirdly enough, it says because Emily
just changed it under your nose and said, smell this.

Speaker 2 (48:55):
That's weird.

Speaker 1 (48:56):
M Yeah, the smell of turned food, ude, it grosses
me out a lot.

Speaker 3 (49:02):
Okay, while you're walking through a tunnel under a railroad track,
you smell urine.

Speaker 1 (49:08):
Yeah, I've been to New York enough times. It's not
that big of a deal.

Speaker 3 (49:11):
It still gets me. Man, I think smelling urine is
worse than smelling poop for some reason. Oh really, yeah?

Speaker 2 (49:17):

Speaker 3 (49:18):
Okay, two more, you see a man with his intestines
exposed after an accident.

Speaker 2 (49:23):
Yeah, that's pretty high up there.

Speaker 3 (49:25):
Yeah, yeah, I think so too. And then last chuck,
you see someone put ketchup on vanilla ice cream and
eat it.

Speaker 2 (49:34):
Yeah, that's gross.

Speaker 1 (49:35):
Okay, although it's interesting though, when I thought about the
body's entrails, like, I don't love it, but I can
watch like a surgery. It's not my favorite thing, but
I'm not like fully disgusted. But if it's an accident,
I think that so it might be a contextual thing
as well.

Speaker 3 (49:54):
So one of the things that I experience when I
see like something in surgery, and I think, yeah, contact
definitely has a lot to do with it in that
case too. But if I see like a surgery, like
remember there used to be that TV network that was
nothing but surgery. You remember, remember it was in like
the late eighties, early nineties, I think, but to see that,
I'll get like faint, right, And it's not necessarily the

sight of blood, it's like the sight of viscera. I
get a little faint, and it never made sense to me.
I think definitely is part of it too. But I
think also part of the disgust reaction is that your
heart rate and blood pressure lower would explain why you
start to feel faint, like I don't feel queasy or
nauseated or like I'm gonna writch. I feel like I
need to sit down for a second, which is, I

guess is still part of the disgust reaction. It just
isn't the the the nausea version of it. But it's
still revulsion, but a weird, fainty version.

Speaker 1 (50:49):
So in the med school sitcom that we star in,
when they pull the sheet back, you start saying I
don't feel too good, guys, and you're like, yeah, you're
so funny, and then all of a sudden you.

Speaker 2 (50:58):
Hit the deck.

Speaker 3 (50:59):
I think the way I would play it is even
more straightforward, where my eyes just go up in the
back of my head and I fall backward in response
to the sheep being pulled.

Speaker 2 (51:09):
It's a good move.

Speaker 3 (51:10):
I can't wait for that movie to come out. Yeah,
you got anything else?

Speaker 2 (51:14):
I don't think so.

Speaker 3 (51:16):
I'd be surprised if you did. We've gone on for
a good six to seven minutes beyond when we should
have stopped.

Speaker 2 (51:21):
I think I like that game aspect of that one
that was fun.

Speaker 3 (51:24):
Oh your score, by the way, indicates that you do
experience disgust from time to time.

Speaker 2 (51:33):
I'm not a serial killer.

Speaker 3 (51:34):
No no, And I don't know if you guys heard
her enough, but Jerry also gave her answers as well.

Speaker 2 (51:40):
That's right.

Speaker 3 (51:42):
If you want to know more about disgust, you can
just go look at some weird stuff on the internet.
It's out there for you. And since I said that
it's time for listener mail, I'm.

Speaker 1 (51:53):
Going to call this one of the many dyslexia emails
we got. Those are really rolling in people who have
overcome dyslexia and adults living with dyslexia. So this one
is from a fellow Atlanta I'm Audrey Short. She says this,
Hey guys, I have dyslexia, and I was so happy

to hear you talking about my learning disability.

Speaker 2 (52:16):
To diagnosed when I was about ten and went to.

Speaker 1 (52:19):
The Shank School in Atlanta, which is specifically four children
with dyslexia.

Speaker 2 (52:25):
In fact, she sent in a.

Speaker 1 (52:26):
Following follow up email used to clarify that we learned
how to read and write using a technique called ortually gilling.

Speaker 2 (52:33):
Now when I left after fourth grade, I could.

Speaker 1 (52:36):
Actually read more importantly, I'd love to read and devoured
every book I could get my hands on. While I
graduated top of my class, I had to work twice
as hard as my classmates to keep up with who
requires readings and homework. My peers seem to think that
my extra time I received for exams was the reason
I did so well, of the countless hours and late nights.

Speaker 3 (52:57):
I spent.

Speaker 2 (52:59):
Learning material following This bullying did affect.

Speaker 1 (53:01):
Me, did not discourage me from pursuing my education of college.
I attend to Miami University in Ohio, graduating this May
with a two point nine to nine GPA Biochemistry and
physics Wow. I plan to attend a PhD program at
Harvard or U SEE Berkeley. I'm not saying this to brag,
but to tell other children with dyslexia to keep trying.

I know so many students are afraid to ask for
extra time or accommodations because they don't want to be
bullieders stand out. I'm proud of my dyslexia because it
has forced me to learn how to stand up for
my student rights. I've made it to where I am
today by utilizing the tools given to me, like extra time,
and I want to encourage all people with learning disabilities
to seek help because you are intelligent and your unique

perspective just might change your field entirely.

Speaker 3 (53:50):
Nice Audrey, Audrey Short, great and Audrey that is great emails,
so that kind of replaces that whole Look, look, this
famous person made it. You can just tell people, let
me tell you about Audrey Short.

Speaker 2 (54:02):
Yeah, agreed, Okay.

Speaker 3 (54:03):
Way to go, Audrey. That's fantastic. Congratulations early on graduating
with a three point nine to nine. Man, that's impressive.
And good luck in grad school too. If you want
to get in touch with us, like Audrey did, you
can go on to stuff youshould Know dot com and
check out the social links there. You can also send
us an email send it off to stuff podcast at

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