Are you easily grossed out? Then you might be a political conservative. That’s the suggestion from a new study published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE by a team of researchers led by University of Nebraska political scientists Kevin Smith and John Hibbing. The October study, “Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations,” tested a group of people whose political predilections had been previously identified on a survey. While hooked up to an apparatus that measures skin conductance, the subjects were shown a series of disgusting (a man eating writhing worms) and pleasant images (a bowl of fruit). As predicted, political conservatives tended to have a much stronger physiological reaction to the gross images than did liberals.
The researchers also report that those with strong disgust reactions tended to oppose gay marriage. (Other research suggests that libertarians are not easily disgusted.) The researchers hopefully conclude, “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 objectively correct may abate, lessening the hubris that fuels political conflict.”