Why do we love popping pimples?

The typical pimple is caused by clogged sebaceous glands or bacteria in our skin, and while most pimples aren’t harmful, they can get infected (and be painful), especially when they’re open to the environment. outside. Yet many of us can’t resist pinching them.

To get to the root of pimple breaking, we can turn to one of our most basic emotions: disgust.

Disgust evolved to protect humans from infectious diseases and poisons, Daniel Kellyprofessor of philosophy at Purdue University and author of a book titled yuck! The nature and moral significance of disgustTold PopSci in an interview. For example, we’ve learned to avoid common repellents, like spoiled meat or poo, because they can contain germs known to make us sick if ingested. Developing this internal dick detector was important to keeping our ancestors alive, Kelly says, because we can’t actually see the tiny pathogens like viruses and bacteria that make us sick.

However, certain bodily fluids like blood, saliva, or pus, including the oily ooze from a pimple, are often only considered gross when they exit our bodies. In this case, Kelly explains, our disgust acts like a bouncer enforcing a no-reentry policy: once our bodily fluids are out in the big bad world, they can potentially become contaminated with bacteria or other pathogens, we don’t feel like putting them back inside of us. This aversion to illness is also why people recognize the telltale signs of illness in others around them, such as sweating or coughing.

But unlike snotty noses, you might be surprised to find that squeezing those angry whiteheads doesn’t always evoke the same yuck reaction — in fact, there’s a the whole community of people who finds this final flurry oddly satisfying.

Popping on the brain

We obviously do not all react the same way when we see pus coming out of a pimple. And on a basic, primitive level, even popping fanatics are at least a little disgusted. It’s about whether your pleasure outweighs your instinctive repulsion.

There may also be levels of love (or loathing) to prick these imperfections. Some people like to watch Youtube Where ICT Tac videos of pimples popping, but wouldn’t be tempted to press their own pimples. Watching this happen to someone else through a screen controls exposure – the viewer is at no real risk of coming into contact with potential pathogens. A similar phenomenon can be observed when horror fans watch scary movies. No matter how scary or gross a movie is, we know a zombie isn’t going to show up and eat our brains.

Even for people who pop in person, whether on themselves or on someone else, there is always an element of control involved. It’s not the same as suddenly coming across an infected wound; while your conscious mind may immediately react with an initial feeling of unease, your lizard brain and past experiences of not getting sick from zit pus help you recognize that a simple pimple probably won’t put you in danger. .

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Differences in our brains also help explain why some people like pimples more than others. How each person reacts to popping pimples depends on their brain, a 2021 study finds paper in the review Behavioral brain research. Scientists at the University of Graz in Austria asked 38 popping enthusiasts and 42 non-enthusiasts to watch 96 video clips showing either popping pimples, water fountains or steam cleaning. The fountain videos were used as controls because water from a fountain mimics pus coming from a pimple, the researchers said, while the steam cleaning videos served as oddly satisfying controls.

Researchers asked study participants to complete a survey before the experiment to determine their pleasure in popping pimples, their sensitivity to disgust, and their sensitivity to rewards and punishments. Then the participants watched the clips while their brain activity was measured in a functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, machine.

The team found that people who liked the zit squeeze videos reported greater reward sensitivity, as well as better disgust regulation abilities, than those who didn’t. In other words, pimple fans were more likely to experience excitement when rewarded with the satisfaction of pus squirting out of a pimple and were able to better modulate the amount of disgust they felt while looking. These self-reported qualities matched what the researchers found in the brain imaging portion of the study.

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The fMRI scans also revealed the parts of the brain most responsible for making us a fan or an enemy of popping pimples: the nucleus accumbens and the insula. The nucleus accumbens is part of the brain’s pleasure system and has been shown to modulate people’s responses to things they dislike. When people who disliked pimple popping watched the videos, their nucleus accumbens was disabled and showed little or no activity. And while the nucleus accumbens was also disabled in people who liked pimple popping videos, it was more active than in their pop-hating counterparts. The insula is another part of the brain that activates when we are disgusted. The level of connectivity between the nucleus accumbens and the insula also varied between the two groups, with button ventilators having greater connectivity. The researchers hypothesized that the increased connectivity of the insula with the accumbens may be linked to better regulation of disgust.

Don’t worry about popping pimple fans – just because you have a higher disgust tolerance for pimple popping doesn’t mean you’re less likely to detect actually harmful things that will be make you sick. Plus, even the most hardcore pimple-popping fans still have this innate response: the 2021 article revealed that ultimately, all participants were at least somewhat disgusted with pimple-popping. .

To Pop or Not to Pop

Unfortunately for popping fans, dermatologists say you really shouldn’t tinker with this particular task, no matter how tempting it is to get rid of unsightly pimples. Popping pimples breaks the skin and can cause infections and scarring. Blackheads and whiteheads should be left alone, although home treatments like benzoyl peroxide can help them fade faster. If you have a whitehead at Vesuvius that you really want to get rid of, see a dermatologist, as they are trained to handle extractions properly. If you still have an urge to squeeze, there are plenty of videos on the internet to safely satisfy you.

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