5 Gross Things You Let Your BFF Get Away With You Wouldn't Stand From A Stranger — Because Of Science

Have you ever given any thought to why you find strangers grosser than your friends — even when they're doing the exact same things? Take, for example, what happens when I head to the gym with my workout buddy, Chrissy. We often do cardio in tandem on side-by-side machines. When we move onto strength training, though, we spot each other and accordingly take turns. Interestingly, while I never give a second thought to hopping on, let's say, the rowing machine mere seconds after she hops off it, I'd absolutely grab the handy sanitizing spray stationed nearby if I was going to use the equipment after someone else.

The reality of the matter is that Chrissy's perspiration is no different from any given rando's; everyone's gettin' their sweat on at the gym, after all. But that doesn't make me any less skeeved out at the thought of said rando's sweat or any more skeeved out about Chrissy's. And now, thanks to a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, I know why.

In the study, researchers from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland gave a plain white shirt, a shirt with the St. Andrews logo, and a shirt with the logo of St. Andrews' rival, the University of Dundee, to two focus groups of St. Andrews students — one who'd been told the study was about college students in general and the other who believed it was specifically about a fellow St. Andrews student. Upon sniffing the sweaty shirts, an interesting pattern emerged. Everyone was grossed out by the plain white shirt and not grossed out by the St. Andrews shirt. The Dundee shirt, however, was received much worse by those who believed the study was about St. Andrews students. as opposed to those who believed it was a general study.


So, what gives? Well, the researchers think the reactions speak largely to the way we're hard wired to think in terms of inclusion. Or, as it were, exclusion. Everyone was disgusted by the plain white shirt because there was no perceived connection to the person who wore it. They were a stranger — not a member of the students' social sphere. That logic likewise applies to the St. Andrews' shirt. The St. Andrews' students polled identified a connection to the shirt wearer because they appeared to attend the same school. And the Dundee shirt was met with vehement disapproval by the St. Andrews group because, as rivals, anyone who attended Dundee would not be in their social in crowd.

So, basically, there's no scientific reason we should be any more grossed out by the sweat of strangers than we are by the sweat of our BFFs. We are, though, and it has far more to do with our psychology and societal-fostered prejudices. Here are a few prime examples (and logic behind) things you let your friends get away with you'd otherwise find super-gross.

1. Pee In Front Of You


It's kind of a running joke that women go to the restroom in packs, and there's a lot of truth to that cliche. Some super tight friends even dare to carry on conversations between stalls while taking a poop. But a stranger doing this isn't just considered bad form; it's quite possibly grounds for a public indecency charge. So, in this case, the aversion seems to be related to what Psychology Today deems a cultural acquisition — we are taught what is disgusting and who we should find disgusting doing it.

2. Point Out a Bat in the Cave


Would you be offended if a perfect stranger walked up and told you there was a big ol' boogie hanging out of your nostril? Or how about if they had one and picked it in front of you? Both are things your close friends can likely get away with in front of you, yet in any other capacity you would find revolting. Although your emotional connection to your friend overshadows this, being disgusted by boogers is a condition cultural response — even though 91 percent of adults admit to diggin' from time to time.

3. Borrow Your Deodorant


This speaks directly to the study at hand, huh? I've probably handed over my deodorant to friends and family hundreds of times after swiping it over my own pits, and neither I or they seem to think there's anything weird about that. Guess that makes those people part of my personal in crowd.

4. Fart (Toot? Poot? *Blushes*)


Perhaps the reason we find strangers' farts so disgusting is because we think they smell worse than our friends. But, let me tell you, my friends — the reason we think that actually is really gross. According to ASAPScience, we're more likely to prefer something that is more familiar to us. AKA you probably don't mind your bestie's farts as much because your nose has grown accustomed to them. Like a friend-specific fart callus.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (4)