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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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Physiological Response to Disgusting and Other Aversive Stimuli and Attitudes on Gay Marriage.The bars represent the proportion of change from the last second of the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) to the highest skin conductance level (SCL) reading during first six seconds of viewing the stimulus in question. Scores are standardized 0 to 1. The number of subjects is 24 for the ‘support gay marriage’ group and 23 for the ‘oppose gay marriage’ group. Panel A presents the scores for disgust images while panel B presents the results for the aversive non-disgust images. Despite the small number of subjects, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = 3.10, p<.01, two-tailed test). In contrast, skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = .24, p = .80, two-tailed test).
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pone-0025552-g004: Physiological Response to Disgusting and Other Aversive Stimuli and Attitudes on Gay Marriage.The bars represent the proportion of change from the last second of the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) to the highest skin conductance level (SCL) reading during first six seconds of viewing the stimulus in question. Scores are standardized 0 to 1. The number of subjects is 24 for the ‘support gay marriage’ group and 23 for the ‘oppose gay marriage’ group. Panel A presents the scores for disgust images while panel B presents the results for the aversive non-disgust images. Despite the small number of subjects, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = 3.10, p<.01, two-tailed test). In contrast, skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = .24, p = .80, two-tailed test).

Mentions: We present the results graphically in Figure 4, taking advantage of the essentially dichotomous nature of the Wilson-Patterson format (only 3 respondents claimed to be undecided about gay marriage and they are excluded from the figure) to contrast the different patterns depending upon whether the images were disgusting or were aversive but not disgusting. The bars represent the change from the last second of the ISI to the highest SCL reading during viewing of the stimulus in question. Significance levels are slightly reduced as a result of the dichotomized dependent variable and the loss of cases but the visual representation is helpful. As can be seen, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage whereas skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage. Also of note is the fact that, in our sample at least, skin conductance changes in response to disgusting stimuli do not correlate highly with skin conductance changes in response to other aversive stimuli (p = .489), suggesting physiological reactivity varies depending upon the stimulus type in question [33], a finding consistent with evidence that disgust and disease avoidance activate different neural pathways from threat (self-protection) and other responses to aversive situations [13]. In any event, a thorough investigation of the match between responses to discrete categories of stimuli and stances on particular political issues awaits studies with larger Ns and broader ranges of stimuli, but our initial investigation points to the conclusion that attitudes toward gay marriage (and perhaps other sex-related issues) have a special connection to disgust.


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

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

Physiological Response to Disgusting and Other Aversive Stimuli and Attitudes on Gay Marriage.The bars represent the proportion of change from the last second of the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) to the highest skin conductance level (SCL) reading during first six seconds of viewing the stimulus in question. Scores are standardized 0 to 1. The number of subjects is 24 for the ‘support gay marriage’ group and 23 for the ‘oppose gay marriage’ group. Panel A presents the scores for disgust images while panel B presents the results for the aversive non-disgust images. Despite the small number of subjects, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = 3.10, p<.01, two-tailed test). In contrast, skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = .24, p = .80, two-tailed test).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0025552-g004: Physiological Response to Disgusting and Other Aversive Stimuli and Attitudes on Gay Marriage.The bars represent the proportion of change from the last second of the inter-stimulus interval (ISI) to the highest skin conductance level (SCL) reading during first six seconds of viewing the stimulus in question. Scores are standardized 0 to 1. The number of subjects is 24 for the ‘support gay marriage’ group and 23 for the ‘oppose gay marriage’ group. Panel A presents the scores for disgust images while panel B presents the results for the aversive non-disgust images. Despite the small number of subjects, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = 3.10, p<.01, two-tailed test). In contrast, skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage (t = .24, p = .80, two-tailed test).
Mentions: We present the results graphically in Figure 4, taking advantage of the essentially dichotomous nature of the Wilson-Patterson format (only 3 respondents claimed to be undecided about gay marriage and they are excluded from the figure) to contrast the different patterns depending upon whether the images were disgusting or were aversive but not disgusting. The bars represent the change from the last second of the ISI to the highest SCL reading during viewing of the stimulus in question. Significance levels are slightly reduced as a result of the dichotomized dependent variable and the loss of cases but the visual representation is helpful. As can be seen, skin conductance changes occasioned by the disgusting images distinguish supporters and opponents of gay marriage whereas skin conductance changes occasioned by the aversive but not disgusting images are quite similar for supporters and opponents of gay marriage. Also of note is the fact that, in our sample at least, skin conductance changes in response to disgusting stimuli do not correlate highly with skin conductance changes in response to other aversive stimuli (p = .489), suggesting physiological reactivity varies depending upon the stimulus type in question [33], a finding consistent with evidence that disgust and disease avoidance activate different neural pathways from threat (self-protection) and other responses to aversive situations [13]. In any event, a thorough investigation of the match between responses to discrete categories of stimuli and stances on particular political issues awaits studies with larger Ns and broader ranges of stimuli, but our initial investigation points to the conclusion that attitudes toward gay marriage (and perhaps other sex-related issues) have a special connection to disgust.

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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