Scientist reveals the truth behind why people get a kick out of watching pimple popping videos
The prominence of the internet in modern society has given birth to a lot of great things. The Harlem Shake (remember that?), Damn Daniel and The Shiggy Dance have all benefited modern society in one way or another, but the same can't be said for other viral sensations.
Take pimple popping videos, for example. Social media - and Facebook in particular - is awash with people having their pimples popped. The title of the video will usually be something along the lines of: "OH MY GOD THIS CANNOT BE REAL THE WORLD'S LARGEST PIMPLE POP" and the five-minute clip will feature puss, blood and a whole lot of holding down your vomit.
Yet, while it's a disgusting recipe of ingredients, pimple popping videos have proved to be hugely popular online. Why? Well, now we have some science to give us the answer.
Videos like the ones made by dermatologist Sandra Lee – aka Dr Pimple Popper – are all too common on our timelines, and the Californian doctor even has her own TV show off of the back of her success.
“It’s fascinating to me why people love this stuff,” Lee said during an interview with The Washington Post earlier this week, explaining that people have told her that watching the videos relaxes and entertains them.
This idea that some people may find the video 'therapeutic' to a degree is also supported by Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Speaking about the thirst for these videos, Berlin said that “evolutionarily speaking, it’s normal behaviour to want to remove bumps from your skin” because those bumps could range from parasites to a host of other things. Because of this, Berlin argues that it makes sense that human beings evolved in a way that such behaviour can be pleasurable to them, despite it being gross.
Berlin continues, saying that popping pimples or watching others do it stimulates the Nucleus Accumbens: the reward centre in the brain that receives dopamine and gives people “a little hit of pleasure.” However, that said, she is aware that, to others, the videos may seem disgusting; in those cases, she said, a different part of the brain called the insular cortex is activated, causing people to be repulsed by the clips.
For Dr Lee, however, the people who are repulsed by the videos are just as responsible for raising her platform as the pimple popping addicts are. Speaking about the reception that the videos get, she said: "I knew not everybody likes popping.
"I think you get the opposite ends of the spectrum – people who are obsessed with it and people who are disgusted by it.
"But that's how it grew, too, because either way, people would tag their friends to show them and that's how it got bigger."
So it looks like pimple popping is here to stay. Great.