April 16, 2024

Easily grossed-out? Obviously you’re conservative

Latest study shows disgust linked to political views
Do you shudder at slime, gross out at gore, or cringe at creepy-crawlies? Well, you’re probably a political conservative and you almost certainly disapprove of gays and lesbians, according to researchers at Cornell University.

Study leader David Pizarro, working with academics from Harvard and Yale, surveyed 181 adults from swing states on both a standarised disgust sensitivity scale and a political ideology scale. This yielded a correlation between being easily grossed-out and political conservatism. To refine this, they linked 91 Cornell undergrads’ disgust sensitivity to their positions on gay marriage, abortion, gun control, labor unions, tax cuts and affirmative action. Easily disgusted participants were likely to oppose gay marriage and abortion, and somewhat more likely to support for tax cuts. (Their results were published in the journal Cognition & Emotion.)

In a separate study in the journal Emotion, Pizarro and his colleagues discovered that easily disgusted people also disapproved of gay and lesbian sex — although for this they had to employ techniques which reveal attitudes which people may be unwilling to report explicitly or that they may not even know they possess.

The psychology of disgust, an area opened up by University of Virginia academic Jonathan Haidt, has become a weapon in attacking the notion that some actions are essentially immoral. This approach deems conventional morality to be based largely evolved on taboos which have been created by emotions, especially disgust.

This has become an important argument in bioethics ever since bioethicist Leon Kass, an opponent of cloning and human embryonic stem cell research, wrote about "the wisdom of repugnance". Although he certainly did not mean that repugnance alone justified moral judgements, many have ridiculed him for advocating irrational ethics.

Pizarro’s research supports his view that conservative ethics is motivated by disgust and is therefore irrational. "Liberals", he believes, are more likely to be cool and rational and to base their opinons on whether an action causes harm. ~ Newswise, June 4