Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

That's gross! Study uncovers physiological nature of disgust in politics

Date:
November 9, 2011
Source:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Summary:
Most likely, you would be disgusted if confronted with a picture of a man eating a mouthful of writhing worms. Or a particularly bloody wound. Or a horribly emaciated but still living body. But just how much disgust you feel may lend important insight into your personal political proclivities. In a new study, political scientists closely measured people's physiological reactions as they looked at a series of pleasant and unpleasant images. Participants who identified themselves as conservative -- and, in particular, those who said they were against gay marriage -- had strong physiological reactions when shown the gross pictures.

Most likely, you would be disgusted if confronted with a picture of a man eating a mouthful of writhing worms. Or a particularly bloody wound. Or a horribly emaciated but still living body. But just how much disgust you feel may lend important insight into your personal political proclivities.

In a new study, political scientists closely measured people's physiological reactions as they looked at a series of pleasant and unpleasant images. Participants who identified themselves as conservative -- and, in particular, those who said they were against gay marriage -- had strong physiological reactions when shown the gross pictures.

The study, the latest to examine the connection between political differences and humans' built-in physiological traits, was co-authored by University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professors Kevin Smith and John Hibbing and appears this month in the online journal PLoS ONE, published by the Public Library of Science.

"This is one more piece of evidence that we, quite literally, have gut feelings about politics," Smith said. "Our political attitudes and behaviors are reflected in our biology."

Researchers worked with 27 women and 23 men who were chosen from a larger pool of participants who also underwent thorough political questioning. The subjects were shown a series of disgusting and also relatively pleasant images while electrodes on their skin measured subtle skin conductance changes, which indicated an emotional response.

As predicted, conservatives responded to the pictures with much more intense disgust than did liberals. Attitudes in opposition to same-sex marriage were highly connected.

The results add to a growing area of research that suggests biology plays a larger role in influencing political orientation than many might think. Recent UNL work has produced findings in this area, including a 2008 study that found people who are highly responsive to threatening images were likely to support defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War.

"The proper interpretation of the findings (in the current study) is not that biology causes politics or that politics causes biology," the authors write, "but that certain political orientations at some unspecified point become housed in our biology, with meaningful political consequences."

Acceptance of the role of involuntary physiological responses is not easy for many, however: "Most are proud of their political orientations, believe them to be rational responses to the world around them, and are reluctant to concede that subconscious predispositions play any role in shaping them," they wrote. Still, the authors suggest that if recognition of the relevance of politics of involuntary physiology became more widespread, it could diminish frustration from the perceived illogical inflexibility of political opponents and reduce political hostility.

"After all, if political differences are traceable in part to the fact that people vary in the way they physically experience the world, certitude that any particular worldview is 'correct' may abate, lessening the hubris that fuels political conflict."

In addition to UNL's Smith and Hibbing, the study was co-authored by Douglas Oxley of Texas A&M University; Matthew Hibbing of the University of California, Merced; and John Alford of Rice University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kevin B. Smith, Douglas Oxley, Matthew V. Hibbing, John R. Alford, John R. Hibbing. Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (10): e25552 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025552

Cite This Page:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "That's gross! Study uncovers physiological nature of disgust in politics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025122617.htm>.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2011, November 9). That's gross! Study uncovers physiological nature of disgust in politics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025122617.htm
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "That's gross! Study uncovers physiological nature of disgust in politics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025122617.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: Ebola's Economic Impact Could Eclipse SARS

Breakingviews: Ebola's Economic Impact Could Eclipse SARS

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 18, 2014) The virus ravaging Africa has yet to spread elsewhere. Yet Asia’s SARS crisis in 2003 showed how changes to behaviour can hurt the economy more than the actual disease, says Breakingviews' Una Galani. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins