The Sense Cycle - Driverless Cars, Disgust & Decision-Making

By Richard Craven & Sophia Man

Welcome to the first post of The Sense Cycle - what will be our weekly emotion research round-up.

We've collected a few story highlights from this week to get your blood pumping, hearts beating and eyes widening.

The emotional landscape is now targeting automotive industry on a larger scale, as a means to reduce the number of car accidents on the road due to reckless driving. The understanding for this is that when an individual is identified as being ‘emotional’ (via facial expression and vocal analysis), the system will encourage the user to take steps to recompose oneself, or in more serious circumstance, automatically call the vehicle to a halt.


The knock-on effect for this will be insurers being able to jump on this too. An emotional driver is likely to be an irrational driver and will thus be more likely to make poor decisions. Thus, insurers will be able to use this system as an extra hoop for users to go through when making a claim...

There is no denying that this use will have a drastic effect on improving car safety - and rightly so, as there are around 1.3 million vehicle-related deaths globally every year. The same argument can be made about the important effect of speed cameras, albeit at the distaste of the more adventurous drivers. It then becomes a question (for a later post!) about whether automation actually restricts autonomy, rather than serving to liberate users.


Next up on The Sense Cycle is the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s wonderful report on the emotion ‘disgust’. In short, it is written to highlight that humans evolved revulsion to avoid infections and diseases. After presenting 75 examples of potential disgust to over 2500 participants, they were asked to rate them in terms of disgust on a 5 point scale from ‘no disgust’ to ‘extreme disgust’.

The findings identified 6 distinct categories of disgust present in terms with regards to their ratings. These are:

  1. Hygiene

  2. Animals and insects

  3. Sex

  4. Atypical appearance

  5. Lesions

  6. Food

Overall, the findings give pathogen avoidance theory scientific backing in understanding why humans have evolved to emotionally react to specific stimuli.

This is also an excellent baseline study for further research. Follow-up studies using implicit testing & emotional analysis on top of their participants' stated responses may prove extremely useful in finding correlations between emotionality and explicit responses. Will there be an obvious say vs feel or are humans emotionally aware enough to recognise the dangers of disgusting stimuli in terms of emotional response? For example, will lesions (the most disgusting category in the paper's findings) generate the highest level of emotional disgust? Is gender an influencing factor in emotional responses, and if so, can this back up evolutionary gender theories that males take part in riskier behaviour to increase the chance of reproduction?

Warning: Some readers may find the following Gif disgusting....

I guess it is a good job I know a company that deals with emotions and loves a bit of R&D…

You can find the original paper on disgust here:


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