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Disgust sensitivity and the neurophysiology of left-right political orientations.

Smith KB, Oxley D, Hibbing MV, Alford JR, Hibbing JR - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: Given its primal nature and essential value in avoiding pathogens disgust likely has an effect even without registering in conscious beliefs.In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.This relationship holds even when controlling for the degree to which respondents believe themselves to be disgust sensitive and suggests that people's physiological predispositions help to shape their political orientations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States of America. ksmith1@unl.edu

ABSTRACT
Disgust has been described as the most primitive and central of emotions. Thus, it is not surprising that it shapes behaviors in a variety of organisms and in a variety of contexts--including homo sapien politics. People who believe they would be bothered by a range of hypothetical disgusting situations display an increased likelihood of displaying right-of-center rather than left-of-center political orientations. Given its primal nature and essential value in avoiding pathogens disgust likely has an effect even without registering in conscious beliefs. In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images. This relationship holds even when controlling for the degree to which respondents believe themselves to be disgust sensitive and suggests that people's physiological predispositions help to shape their political orientations.

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Sample of Type of Image Rated to be Disgusting.This is an image similar to one of the actual image types rated as disgusting by the raters. The actual images used in the study are from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) collection and cannot be reproduced in a publication. This image is modeled on an image in the IAPS collection of a man eating worms, but the man in this picture is actually one of the authors of this article.
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pone-0025552-g001: Sample of Type of Image Rated to be Disgusting.This is an image similar to one of the actual image types rated as disgusting by the raters. The actual images used in the study are from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) collection and cannot be reproduced in a publication. This image is modeled on an image in the IAPS collection of a man eating worms, but the man in this picture is actually one of the authors of this article.

Mentions: Images were selected to provide variation in emotional valence (positive to negative) and arousal (low to high), and ranged from a positively valanced but minimally arousing image of a bowl of fruit, to a negatively valenced and highly arousing image of a screwdriver poking towards a human eye, to relatively neutral images such as a photograph of a room. All images were independently rated by 126 judges (undergraduates who rated the images for course credit). Judges were asked to rate each image in three ways: (1) valence using a 1–9 scale (“How does this image make you feel?” with response categories ranging from 1 = image evoked happy/positive feelings to 9 = image evoked unhappy/negative feelings), (2) intensity using a 1–9 scale (“How strong is the emotional reaction you feel?” with response categories ranging from 1 = no reaction to 9 = strong reaction), (3) identification of specific emotion evoked by each image. To provide the latter, judges were given a list of 12 emotions (happiness, satisfaction, surprise, anxiety, fear, disgust, grief, anger, sadness, excitement, boredom, amusement) and asked to indicate which emotions were evoked by the image. We deliberately sought variation in emotional specificity, valence, and arousal, in an attempt to empirically isolate specific emotional targets. Of the 38 images viewed by our research subjects, five were identified by our judges as unambiguously negatively valenced, highly arousing and evoking the specific emotion of disgust (defined as at least 80 percent of judges identifying the image as having a mean arousal rating of at least 6.0 on the 1–9 scale, where nine is the most arousing). The five images meeting these criteria were a man in the process of eating a mouthful of writhing worms, a horribly emaciated but alive body, human excrement floating in a toilet, a bloody wound, and an open sore with maggots in it (to illustrate the nature of the images employed, Figure 1 presents an image of a man eating worms). The means for these five images are: 87 percent reporting disgust, 7.31 arousal rating, and a valence rating of 7.59.


Disgust sensitivity and the neurophysiology of left-right political orientations.

Smith KB, Oxley D, Hibbing MV, Alford JR, Hibbing JR - PLoS ONE (2011)

Sample of Type of Image Rated to be Disgusting.This is an image similar to one of the actual image types rated as disgusting by the raters. The actual images used in the study are from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) collection and cannot be reproduced in a publication. This image is modeled on an image in the IAPS collection of a man eating worms, but the man in this picture is actually one of the authors of this article.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3198440&req=5

pone-0025552-g001: Sample of Type of Image Rated to be Disgusting.This is an image similar to one of the actual image types rated as disgusting by the raters. The actual images used in the study are from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) collection and cannot be reproduced in a publication. This image is modeled on an image in the IAPS collection of a man eating worms, but the man in this picture is actually one of the authors of this article.
Mentions: Images were selected to provide variation in emotional valence (positive to negative) and arousal (low to high), and ranged from a positively valanced but minimally arousing image of a bowl of fruit, to a negatively valenced and highly arousing image of a screwdriver poking towards a human eye, to relatively neutral images such as a photograph of a room. All images were independently rated by 126 judges (undergraduates who rated the images for course credit). Judges were asked to rate each image in three ways: (1) valence using a 1–9 scale (“How does this image make you feel?” with response categories ranging from 1 = image evoked happy/positive feelings to 9 = image evoked unhappy/negative feelings), (2) intensity using a 1–9 scale (“How strong is the emotional reaction you feel?” with response categories ranging from 1 = no reaction to 9 = strong reaction), (3) identification of specific emotion evoked by each image. To provide the latter, judges were given a list of 12 emotions (happiness, satisfaction, surprise, anxiety, fear, disgust, grief, anger, sadness, excitement, boredom, amusement) and asked to indicate which emotions were evoked by the image. We deliberately sought variation in emotional specificity, valence, and arousal, in an attempt to empirically isolate specific emotional targets. Of the 38 images viewed by our research subjects, five were identified by our judges as unambiguously negatively valenced, highly arousing and evoking the specific emotion of disgust (defined as at least 80 percent of judges identifying the image as having a mean arousal rating of at least 6.0 on the 1–9 scale, where nine is the most arousing). The five images meeting these criteria were a man in the process of eating a mouthful of writhing worms, a horribly emaciated but alive body, human excrement floating in a toilet, a bloody wound, and an open sore with maggots in it (to illustrate the nature of the images employed, Figure 1 presents an image of a man eating worms). The means for these five images are: 87 percent reporting disgust, 7.31 arousal rating, and a valence rating of 7.59.

Bottom Line: Given its primal nature and essential value in avoiding pathogens disgust likely has an effect even without registering in conscious beliefs.In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.This relationship holds even when controlling for the degree to which respondents believe themselves to be disgust sensitive and suggests that people's physiological predispositions help to shape their political orientations.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States of America. ksmith1@unl.edu

ABSTRACT
Disgust has been described as the most primitive and central of emotions. Thus, it is not surprising that it shapes behaviors in a variety of organisms and in a variety of contexts--including homo sapien politics. People who believe they would be bothered by a range of hypothetical disgusting situations display an increased likelihood of displaying right-of-center rather than left-of-center political orientations. Given its primal nature and essential value in avoiding pathogens disgust likely has an effect even without registering in conscious beliefs. In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images. This relationship holds even when controlling for the degree to which respondents believe themselves to be disgust sensitive and suggests that people's physiological predispositions help to shape their political orientations.

Show MeSH