Monday, February 11 2019

Disgust may play a role in partisan politics

Written by John Sexton

Last week the Atlantic published a story about liberals and conservatives and the scientific evidence that you can often tell one from the other by looking at how people respond to disgust.

If you aren’t familiar with this area of research, the idea is that some political opinions may stem from more fundamental biological or psychological differences in the population. Disgust or revulsion is just one of those. No one is saying that people are absolutely determined to be right or left based on this alone, but the relationship between the two things seems pretty reliable:

According to a 2013 meta-analysis of 24 studies—pretty much all the scientific literature on the topic at that time—the association between a conservative ethos and sensitivity to disgust is modest: Disgust sensitivity explains 4 to 13 percent of the variation in a population’s ideology. That may sound unimpressive, but it is in fact noteworthy, says David Pizarro, a psychology professor at Cornell who specializes in disgust. “These are robust, reliable findings. No matter where we look, we see this relationship”—a rarity in the fuzzy field of psychology. The trend stands out even more, he adds, when you consider all the other things that potentially impinge on “why you might have a particular political view.”

Disgust is believed to have evolved for a specific purpose: to keep us away from potential pathogens. So when you see something that looks like decay—maggots crawling on meat for instance—your brain tells you to stay away from it. All of this precedes any theory of the cell or understanding of virology, perhaps by millions of years. It’s a kind of blunt instrument to keep you healthy, what the article calls a behavioral immunity system. And there’s some evidence that disgust makes us wary, not just of maggot-ridden meat, but of strangers. Why would this make sense? Because in the past encountering a new population was a potential threat, not just physically but in terms of disease transmission.

In one notable experiment, Schaller showed subjects pictures of people coughing, cartoonish-looking germs sprouting from sponges, and other images designed to raise disease concerns. A control group was shown pictures highlighting threats unrelated to germs—for instance, an automobile accident. Both groups were then given a questionnaire that asked them to assess the level of resources the Canadian government should provide to entice people from various parts of the world to settle in Canada. Compared with the control group, the subjects who had seen pictures related to germs wanted to allocate a greater share of a hypothetical government advertising budget to attract people from Poland and Taiwan—familiar immigrant groups in Vancouver, where the study was conducted—rather than people from less familiar countries, such as Nigeria, Mongolia, and Brazil…

 

This article was sourced from Hot Air

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