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That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion Hardcover – January 23, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0393076479 ISBN-10: 0393076474

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393076474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393076479
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

If a visceral response triggers memory, then readers are unlikely to forget Herz’s paean to yuckiness. Whether she’s writing about the notion of cleaning up somebody else’s bodily fluids or sleeping in a bed where someone died the night before, Herz pulls no slime-covered punches. Why might we want to know the what, the why, and the wherefore of our response to nauseating stuff? Because it is important. Because everybody, from youngsters on up, has to be taught that contact with certain things—such as a coworker’s soggy, used handkerchief or an unflushed toilet—should be avoided. Yup. Disgust, the psychologist says, must be taught. It is the only emotion that requires instruction. And we must learn it in order to avoid myriad things in which unseen yet life-threatening hazards reside. Beyond that, there is moral disgust, which we feel when others overstep the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Everyone’s disgust threshold is unique, and it changes throughout life. Although overly sensitive readers may be cautioned, for goodness’ sake, don’t miss Herz’s informative, entertaining book. --Donna Chavez

Review

“...[Herz] manages it quite admirably: to be vivid and true to her subject without getting so revolting that her readers react the way we react to anything that disgusts us, which is by trying to get as far away as possible.” (Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution - New York Times Book Review)

More About the Author

Dr. Rachel Herz is on the faculty at Brown University and a professional consultant. She has been working on the psychology of smell since 1990 and is considered to be one of the world's leading experts. Her book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (William Morrow/Harper-Collins) was published in 2007 and selected as a finalist for the "2009 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books." Her intellectual interests recently took a turn and she is now studying the emotion of disgust. Her latest book is, That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion (W.W. Norton & Co).

Rachel Herz serves on several advisory boards, including The Fragrance Foundation, and consults for many of the world's leading multinational flavor and fragrance companies. Her expertise has led to legal work as an expert witness in cases involving the sense of smell, and numerous appearances on national media, including ABC News, The Discovery Channel, The New York Times, New Yorker, Time magazine, Rolling Stone, Salon.com and O, the Oprah Magazine. Please visit her blog at Psychology Today and her website: www.rachelherz.com.

Rachel Herz is a dual citizen of the US and Canada. She grew up in Montreal Canada and received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Rachel Herz is fascinated by human nature and loves all things scented and sensory. She lives in New England with her canine and human family.

Customer Reviews

I guess the next step is to try some of the surveys mentioned in the book.
Kall S Symons
To my mind the author's tone was too jolly, almost condescending, and at the same time, there were some errors of writing which were jarring.
S. J. Osburn
I was wondering how could Rachel write a book about repulsion that would be interesting enough to read.
Tony Cannone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By BLehner on January 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What do you find disgusting? Let me rephrase the question. Ever wondered why your own spit doesn't bother you, but if someone spits at you you're disgusted? Or how about feeling like you might have to throw up when you see an accident and there's someone lying on the street with a severed limb, yet you're thrilled when someone gets butchered in a horror movie?
Drawing on research in psychology and evolutionary biology, Rachel Herz presents fascinating and informative insights in her book That's Disgusting. While most of us know that disgust originated to prevent people from eating poisonous food, making it a survivalist emotion, it is in fact very complex, highly individual, and shaped by the culture we grew up in. And unlike other emotions disgust is not innate, but an instinct that has to be learned.
Starting out with the most obvious topics - food as source of disgust - Rachel leads the reader down some unexpected paths. Disease, pornography, cannibalism, humor. All of these can be perceived as disgusting, while some may, oddly enough, even turn out to be fun and entertaining (unless you dislike stand-up comedians making jokes about bodily functions, that is). Especially the chapter on moral disgust intrigued me. Influenced by culture, it evokes the same emotion as physical disgust, yet it is clearly different.
If you're interested in the topic, this book is definitely a must-read!
In short: A truly absorbing and well researched book on the mysteries of repulsion!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault on January 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
*A full summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of Rachel Herz's 'That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion'

At first glance it may seem like our sense of disgust is a fairly marginal and narrow aspect of our everyday experience (not to mention being a little icky), and therefore, not the most appetizing candidate for deep exploration. Nevertheless, in her new book 'That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion', psychologist Rachel Herz demonstrates that there are in fact several aspects of disgust that make it unique among the basic human emotions (which include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and disgust), and worthy of closer attention.

To begin with, it is clear that what disgusts us is culturally relative to a degree. For instance, while many of us enjoy the foods of other cultures (no matter what culture we are from), there are normally at least some dishes that people of other cultures eat with relish that we would not want to come anywhere near--and even the most culinarily adventurous among you have probably come across at least a few culturally specific comestibles that at least initially made you think twice.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that disgust is clearly culturally relative to a degree, there are also aspects of disgust that are universal to all human beings. To begin with, it is universal among human beings to find diseased and festering bodies disgusting, and bodily fluids such as urine, feces, vomit, mucous, phlegm, pus and blood also tend to be universally repulsive (the one notable exception here are tears--which universally elicit empathy rather than disgust).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tmanstey on January 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I LOVED this book! Not only was the topic covered thoroughly but the sequencing, from information you likely are already aware of regarding disgust, through to more novel facts was done seamlessly. I loved that the academic information presented was done in an accessible way which kept my interest but didn't overwhelm me. And the writing was brilliant! So well written! I can't recommend this more, whether you have a current interest in disgust or are just looking for a riveting read - this is your book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tony Cannone on December 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was at a seminar where Rachel Herz was one of the guest speakers. Her talk was not only interesting but the most informative and entertaining. I was wondering how could Rachel write a book about repulsion that would be interesting enough to read. Based on hearing her talk I decided to take a chance. I have to say she doesn't disappoint. Not only was it interesting but it opened my eyes up to things happening around me and gave me insight as to why. There are numerous examples that one can relate to or even have experienced. She accomplishes this with historical references, research data and humor. A combination that makes it an easy enjoyable read. I highly recomend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bk on February 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure that I really wanted to buy this book, but I saw the author on a TV interview and decided to take a chance. The book really gets into the way that what some find disgusting, others find the height of politeness or edible delicacy. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to read this book at arms length and take it in short bursts, but it's actually incredibly interesting and well worth the purchase price. The book starts right off with examples and stories, some of which will definitely make you laugh while others will impress you with things you might not have thought about before.
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