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Nose-picking is the act of extracting dried nasal mucus or foreign bodies from the nose with a finger. Despite being a very common habit, it is a mildly taboo activity in most cultures,[original research?] and the observation of the activity in another person commonly provokes mixed feelings of disgust and amusement[where?].[1]



Nose-picking is an extremely common habit, with some surveys indicating that it is almost universal, with people picking their nose an average of about four times a day.[2] A 1995 study into nose picking, requesting information from 1,000 randomly selected adults, gathered 254 respondents. It defined nose-picking as "the insertion of a finger (or other object) into the nose with the intention of removing dried nasal secretions". Of those who responded, 91% said they were current nose pickers (but only 75% of these believed everyone did it) and two people claimed to spend between 15 to 30 minutes and one to two hours a day picking their nose.[3]

Mucous membranes in the nasal cavity constantly produce a wet mucus that removes dust and pathogens from the air flowing through the cavity. For the most part, the cilia that also line the cavity work to move the mucus toward the throat where it can be swallowed. However, not all the mucus stays fluid enough to be moved by the cilia. The closer the mucus is to the nostril opening, the more moisture it loses to the outside air, and the more likely it is to dry out and become stuck. Once dried, the mucus typically causes a sensation of irritation that leads to the compulsion to dislodge the itch by picking.

In many cultures[which?] nose-picking is considered a private act akin to defecation, urination, flatulence, and belching. Mucophagy, the act of eating the extracted mucus, may be considered more taboo, and is sometimes portrayed in comedies. To be caught nose-picking may be considered humiliating.

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