“Despite the possibility of mixed feelings of disgust and amusement hardly anything is known about the relationship between these emotions.”
Prompting researchers from Western Illinois University and the University of Toronto to investigate – and in so doing constructing what maybe the only formal psychology study to have centred around the work of transgressive cult film-maker John Waters.The experimenters showed a two-minute disgusting/humorous clip from Waters’ 1972 film Pink Flamingos (an exercise in poor taste) to students “… attending a general psychology course at a large, public university in the Midwest United States” (possibly Western Illinois University?)
The clip highlighted lead character Devine engaging in behaviour featuring (an) extremely bad taste. Involving peanut butter and a passing dog. In general, most of the students did report feeling simultaneously amused and disgusted – and further analysis of the results found that…
“…in a situation that elicited both emotions, the intensity of disgust varied independently of the intensity of amusement.“
The team point out that there is more work to be done however -
“Future research also needs to examine the generalisability of our findings to other examples of disgusting humour, especially ones that are less disgusting.”
The paper: ‘That’s disgusting! …, but very amusing: Mixed feelings of amusement and disgust’ was published in Cognition and Emotion, Volume 21, Number 5, August 2007 , pp. 1102-1113(12).
and can be read in full here.