Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Why bad times leave a bad taste in your mouth

Model faces showing expressions after tasting neutral, sweet, and bitter solutions.
[Image Science/AAAS]

When bad things happen maybe a friend never returns your favorite video game or your sister says mean things about you at school we sometimes say that the experience "left a bad taste in my mouth." And you might think that's kind of weird. After all, what do bad feelings have to do with your mouth?

It turns out that the feeling of disgust we have when a friend treats us badly might not be all that different from other kinds of disgust, say scientists in the 27 February issue of the journal Science.

Model faces showing disgust, anger, and sadness expression, as well as a composite expression combining all three expressions.
[Image Science/AAAS]

When Hanah Chapman of the University of Toronto and her fellow researchers made people drink an awful mix of bitter, salty and sour liquid, the drinkers wrinkled their noses and lifted their upper lips in a "yuck" face. They made the same face when the researchers showed them pictures of disgusting things like dog poop and gross-looking insects.

And surprisingly, they made the same face when they were treated unfairly by other players in a game. Chapman and the other researchers think our brains must see bad behavior as another type of disgusting thing. That's why we use the "yuck" face when we feel like we are treated badly, they said.


This research appears in the 27 February issue of Science.