Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Inside Story

Could a toilet cast a shadow on the quality of a democracy? One may wish to flush it away as irrelevant; but improvement in sanitation and consequent reduction in parasite stress has helped in building democratic societies with liberal values. Researchers have gone further to assert that countries with high levels of parasite-borne diseases were much less likely than others to have a robust democracy, individual freedom, equitable distribution of economic resources and gender equality. It might seem an unsavoury and puerile topic but development of human behaviour has lot to do with the practice of excretion.

A Professor of Psychology at the University of Melbourne, Nick Haslam kicks down the bathroom door to unravel a wide range of behaviors that are linked to excretory function. ‘Our intestines are not just meaty drainpipes through which our waste flows. They are emotional organs whose nerves communicate with the brain and respond to what it thinks, desires and perceives.’ In many ways, our personalities are manifest in our excretory habits.

The toilet is a space that is private but shared, anonymous but intimate, and linked in the mind to our bodies, our gender and our sexuality. Examining the psychological dimensions of all that is walled off from public gaze, from constipation to diarrhoea and from incontinence to toilet graffiti, Haslam provides cutting-edge research on the science of elimination. Without doubt, the bowel is an irritable organ that influences the brain in fascinating ways.

Bathroom have also been seen as natural laboratories for studying gender difference in ways of thinking, preoccupations, language use and communication styles. Loaded with earthy humour and clinical research, Psychology in the Bathroom opens a compelling window to the human psyche from hitherto unexplored perspectives. The topics covered in this amazing book are both intriguing and amusing. It uncovers ‘the irritable bowel’; has sympathy for ‘the nervous bladder’; considers ‘flatulence’ as a source of amusement; and views ‘latrinalia’ as a work of art.

Rarely have such diverse aspects of our private lives been documented and brought into public domain. Nick Haslam’s wonderful work deserves to be read widely....Link

Psychology in the Bathroom
by Nick Haslam
Palgrave MacMillan, UK
174 pages, £47.50

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