As I have been blogging about recently, human behavior is often based on false logic that is unconscious so we don’t even know we are doing it. For example, when a behavior is physically or perceptually similar to one that is unacceptable, even if this one is perfectly fine, we develop social taboos against it. For example, imagine that a bakery throws any leftover cookies into the trash at the end of the day. One evening, they take out the trash and realize they forgot to toss the cookies. So they throw the cookies into the new, clean trash bag they just put in. Is there anything wrong with the cookies? No. But how would you feel about taking the cookies out and eating them? Even if you would take them, you would probably look around to make sure no one was looking. That’s probably what I would do. If I couldn’t do it in secret, it wouldn’t be worth the social risk to be caught eating something out of the trash. Even though they were perfectly clean, only a few hours old, and probably better than anything you could get in a grocery store.
Remember the Seinfeld when George takes half a Twinkie out of the trash that had just been tossed in, breaks off the part closest to the eaten part to get rid of the previous owner’s cooties, and then eats it. They got a whole episode just debating that one act.