The feeling of disgust isn’t particularly enjoyable, but new research suggests the “ewww” has its role: People who are disgusted are better at detecting impurities. …

In the final experiment, the researchers asked 44 different undergrads to complete a similar task detecting a faint numeral against a black or white background. This time, though, the students saw either gross images (such as roaches or garbage) or scary images (such as guns or angry faces) before the task. Previous studies have found that scientists can subtly influence people’s behavior with these so-called “primes.”

That turned out to be the case with disgust, too. People who were generally sensitive to disgust became better at distinguishing whites and light grays after seeing gross images. People not sensitive to disgust showed no change, perhaps because they simply weren’t grossed out enough by the images.