This story is based on the research titled Rhinotillexomania: Psychiatric Disorder or Habit? by James W. Jefferson, M.D. (Dean Foundation for Health, Research, and Education) and Trent D. Thompson, M.D. (University of Wisconsin Medical School) which appears in the February, 1995 issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (pages 56-59).

Another issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry features a related article titled Life Threatening Self-Mutilation of the Nose by Salman Akhtar, M.D. and Brian W. Hastings, M.D. (August, 1978, pages 676-677).

A short summary of this research can be found in the book Strange Days #2 (p. 24, 1997, Fortean Times and Cader Books, New York).
 






Do we all do it?

As you know, this website has always specialized in stories that are a bit unusual.  In fact, some are just downright weird. First there was the story on Condoms and Coca-Cola.  Then, without hesitation, we gave you the famous Headless Chicken page.   And now - you guessed it - we proudly present you with a page devoted to nose-picking. 

Now I'm sure that we all know how one goes about picking their nose, so we can skip the step-by-step instructions. 

We've all caught someone at sometime picking their nose.  Some try to do it in secret.  Others do it openly without embarrassment.  Maybe even you have been caught in the act. 

Nose-picking is one disgusting habit and is certainly not socially acceptable.  So, are these people normal? 

One would guess that this is not the type of thing researched at our institutions of higher learning. 

Guess again. 

Believe it or not, there was a study on nose-picking published in February of 1995 in the Journal of Psychiatry.  Yes, you read it right - college professors being paid the big bucks to find out who picks their nose. 

Of course, scientists must give everyday things complicated scientific names.  Nose-picking is a term for us common folk.  Nose-picking should really be referred to as rhinotillexomania (rhino=nose, tillexis=habit of picking at something, mania=obsession with something).  So, the next time that you see a person picking their nose, tell them that they are a rhinotillexomaniac. 

The researchers prepared their "Rhinotillexomania Questionnaire" and randomly mailed it to 1000 residents in Dane County, Wisconsin.  Each survey included a cover letter that stated "The University of Wisconsin is conducting a survey of a common but understudied habit scientifically known as 'rhinotillexomania'.  Its common name is nose-picking." 

Even better, the letter actually defined what nose-picking is: "Insertion of a finger (or other object) into the nose with the intention of removing dried nasal secretions."  I'll bet that you already knew that. 

Can you imagine getting this survey in the mail?  Even with the University's seal on the stationary, one would have to wonder whether this was a joke or not. 

Now for the results (assuming that they are reliable): 

Of the 1000 surveys mailed out, only 254 were completed and returned to the researchers.

  • 8.7% claim that they have never picked their nose.  (In other words, they are liars or they can't remember doing it as a kid.)
  • 91% stated that they had picked their nose in the past and were still actively practicing this habit.  Yet, only 49.2% of the respondents actually thought that nose-picking was common in adults.
  • 9.2% rate their pickin' as "more than average."
  • 25.6% actually pick their noses daily, 22.3% do it 2 to 5 times each day, and three people admitted to doing it at least hourly.
  • 55.5% spent 1-5 minutes, 23.5% spent 5-15 minutes, and 0.8% (2 people) spent 15-30 minutes each day cleaning their nostrils.  One lone soul claims to devote over 2 hours each day to this ritual (I'm not a doctor and I can tell you that this guy definitely has rhinotillexomania). 
  • 18% reported nosebleeds, while 0.8% claimed perforation of the nasal septum from their nose-picking.
  • 82.8% had picked their noses to "unclog the nasal passages", 66.4% had done it to relieve discomfort or itchiness, 35.7% to avoid the unsightly appearance of a booger hanging from their nose, 34.0% for personal hygiene, and 17.2% picked out of habit.  2.1% (five people) claimed to pick solely for enjoyment.  To no one's surprise, one perverted person picked his/her nose for "sexual stimulation."
  • 65.1% use their index finger, 20.2% use their pinky, and 16.4% use their thumb (must have BIG nostrils to fit a thumb in) as their instrument of choice.
  • Most people (90.3%) disposed of the goop in a tissue or a handkerchief, while 28.6% used the floor, and 7.6% stuck it to the furniture. 
  • 8% of the respondents actually ate the end product.  In case you are thinking of trying this delicacy, the study claims that the pickings are quite tasty (salty).
So, what have we learned from this groundbreaking study? 

First, we now have positive proof that picking one's nose is almost a universally practiced custom, although most won't admit to it. 

Second, boogers apparently taste good, although I can guarantee to you that I will never do the taste testing to find out. 

And, lastly, when researchers are devoting money and time to studying the picking habits of the United States, it comes as no surprise that we can't find a cure for cancer or HIV.

Useless?  Useful?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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