Via Eric Schwitzgebel I learn of what is quite possibly the best study ever, simply because it uses fart spray so awesomely. However, this sort of study is interesting for reasons beyond the creative use of fart spray.
As I’ve previously noted, explicit use of disgust-based arguments are often found in popular moral and legal debates, and people sometimes argue that a disgust-response itself shows something is immoral or should be illegal. Martha Nussbaum (U-Chicago), in Hiding from Humanity, has argued that the disgust-response doesn’t reliably track whether something is immoral (or unsafe/hazardous) and disgust should never play a role in making something illegal.
Here’s a snippet from Schwitzgebel (read his entire entry here):
Simone Schnall and co-authors (including the always interesting Jonathan Haidt) set up a table on the Stanford campus, asking passing Stanford students to complete a questionnaire on the immorality or not of marrying one’s first cousin, having consensual sex with a first cousin, driving rather than walking 1 1/2 miles to work, and releasing a documentary over the objections of immigrants who didn’t realize they were being interviewed on film. All respondents completed the questionnaire while standing near a trashbucket. For one group, the bucket was clean and empty; for another it was lightly doused with fart spray so that a mild odor emanated from it; for a third group, the bucket was liberally sprayed and emitted a strong stench. Participants in the odiferous conditions rated all four actions morally worse than in the fart-absent condition.
UPDATE: Speaking of Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity, there’s a special issue of the Journal of Applied Philosophy dealing with this book. Find out more at The Brooks Blog.