Flatulence, Pain & Perceived Injustice!

Reference:Stevenson, R. Repacholi, B. Does the source of an interpersonal odour affect disgust? A disease risk model and its alternatives European Journal of Social Psychology Volume 35, Issue 3, pages 375?401, May/June 2005

I can’t believe I am about to be discussing bodily gas. Seemingly common sense, but not discussed enough, this study identified that the level of disgust people feel upon smelling flatulence is based on whether the ’emissions’ are from them or others.

The moment our nostrils sense the disgusting odour produced by someone else, we flip out, become angry, and may even resort to name calling and physical violence.

I apologize in advance for being crude, but why is it that when we are sitting on the toilet and having a bowel movement (which inevitably results in unpleasant odours) we don’t react in the same manner? Why do we not find our own odours as offensive? Why? Why?

Theoretical answer: All our sensory organs have evolved to protect us from danger in order to maximize our chance of survival. A foul odour signals the brain of the presence of potential danger as it poses more of a disease risk.

One can appreciate that evolutionary, there is no point in getting angry and defensive about your own flatulence, it would be illogical for the brain to do that. It would make every bowel movement a very unpleasant event- who would we shout at?!

The brain is constantly evaluating the “perceived threat” of input from the outside world. If there is a logical explanation for the odour, the brain ignores the threat. If there is a perceived threat, the brain magnifies it!

Over millions of years, humans who steered clear of foul odours were more likely to stay healthy, survive and of course reproduce. We can therefore conclude that your ancestors are to blame for your innate disgusted reaction by others flatulence.

Now how does flatulence odour relate to pain?

Perceived injustice is felt when someone releases gas in your presence and when one is rear-ended. Being a victim has been associated with severity and persistence of pain after a whiplash injury!

How can we possibly alter our patients’ beliefs about their perceived injustice or the perceived threat of pain? One way is through pain education, which has been shown to reduce the “threat value” of pain and improve patient outcomes.

If you like this topic, read the my full article “Flatulence, Tickling and Whiplash Associated Disorders” on www.aptei.com/articles

Posted on: December 20, 2013

Categories: Fascinating Pain Studies

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