'Are You Easily Disgusted?' You Must Be Conservative

December 15th, 2009 10:14 AM

The USA Weekend supplement in many Sunday newspapers across the country carried a tiny report from academe this weekend on the question "Are you easily disgusted?" Vi-An Nguyen explained that if you are, then you’re probably a conservative:

Imagine taking a sip from your drink, only to realize that it belongs to a stranger. Grossed out? If so, then you may be a conservative thinker.

High "disgust sensitivity," or a tendency to react strongly to things you think are gross, can predict political conservatism, researchers say. Less turned off? That could indicate more liberal views.

Two recent studies link disgust sensitivity with conservative attitudes on gay marriage and abortion. In one, 181 participants were tested for how they'd react to unpleasant situations, such as finding an unflushed toilet in a public restroom. Then they were asked about their political leanings. Researchers found a correlation between being easily disgusted and politically conservative.

"The more sensitive to disgust you are, the more you might react intuitively negative to sexual or other bodily behaviors that might be seen as unusual or immoral," says Yoel Inbar of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Because disgust is a reaction to perceived impurity, he says, it might inform conservative values such as opposing homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.

The pull quote in the little article echoed: "An emotional reaction to impurity might inform conservative values."

These studies are not at all new. Science Daily wrote them up in June, complete with this odd sentence: "Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something -- gay sex between consenting adults, for example -- is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason."

Old-time religion, anyone?

[Hat tip: Kathy S.]