A popular and eww-inspiring photo op, this simple psychology exhibit plumbs the depths of human irrationality as it flushes out the internal struggle between reason and gut-level reaction.
And just in case you were wondering: The placement of this exhibit—next to an actual restroom—is no accident.
Rod-shaped coliform bacteria are abundant in mammalian fecal matter, but are not necessarily harmful. Irrational fear of contamination has an official name: mysophobia. Photo courtesy of NIAID. (click image to enlarge)
Many have speculated that this popular exhibit is a coy reference to conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 artwork, Fountain, a porcelain urinal. When asked to confirm this rumor, our exhibit developer replied, “Duchamps? Who’s that?”
Abstract of Ma, J. 2012. “Listening for Self-Reflective Talk in Visitors’ Conversations: A Case Study of the Exploratorium's Mind Collection.” Visitor Studies 15 (2): 136–156.
“Taste Testing Without Smell.”