Friday, June 8, 2012

Two on Two

There are very few things that are a surety in life, but one is this: everybody poops.  So what do psychologists have to say about this most basic of functions?  In the latest issue of The Psychologist, Nick Haslam takes us on a whirlwind tour of psychological theory and research into human excretion, from its presence in the symptomatology of various mental disorders to its role in social relations and gender roles.  Unfortunately, this is a topic that has been understudied in psychology, so the literature is kind of scant and disconnected.  However, ESPN happens to have a more focused look into the same topic that reveals both the physiology, as well as the sociology, of crapping one's pants.  A taste (poor choice of words):
The sphincter has the final say in these matters, and it is controlled by a unique double ring of muscle tissue that acts like a clip around the bottom of an inflated balloon. The outer ring is made up of voluntary muscle fiber that's under our conscious control. But the inner, more dominant ring is made up of involuntary tissue and regulated by the independent neurological gatekeeper found in the reflex centers of our spinal cord. The battle for control over the sphincter, then, is a smaller version of the constant tug of war between the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the nervous system that athletes deal with when pushing their limits.

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