Why are we attracted to the repulsive?

I was procrastinating late one night when I found myself watching videos of a dermatologist popping pimples. For some inexplicable reason, I was fascinated by these videos- and I am not alone. Thousands of people would watch these videos, repulsed but unable to look away. When you think about it, this phenomenon is incredibly common. Whether it be car accidents or skin infections, morbid concepts invoke humanity’s innate curiosity.

Naturally, I wanted to know why this happens to us and found this video. It proposes the idea that our curiosity towards the morbid may be a survival instinct. If we investigate the misfortunes of others, we may be able to prevent harm to ourselves. In this sense, our inclination towards the gross may be a kind of evolutionary trait, an advantage. After all, an animal that has experienced difficult situations before and knows how to react are more likely to survive unfortunate situations themselves. There is a biological basis for these scenarios as well. When scared, our body releases chemicals like dopamine to increase our alertness. Interestingly enough, dopamine is also the chemical associated with pleasure. Whether we are in real danger or not, the same chemicals are released in our brain creating an alertness and fixation with whatever we are focusing on.

Additionally, the video outlines the idea that the fact that these macabre situations are looked down upon by society may actually increase individual fascination with them. This is known as the boomerang effect. The attraction to societal taboos, like pimple popping, can present a challenge of sorts to the viewer. Not only does experiencing them show strength, but also free will to challenge society.


It is amazing to consider just how attracted to the grotesque we as humans are. From Halloween to horror stories, we like to be scared. As counter intuitive as it is, the most likely explanation for this is our primal instincts and innate desire to survive.

Works Cited


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