Easily grossed out? You're more likely a conservative

Jun 03, 2009 By Lauren Gold

(PhysOrg.com) -- Are you someone who squirms when confronted with slime, shudders at stickiness or gets grossed out by gore? Do crawly insects make you cringe or dead bodies make you blanch?

If so, chances are you're more conservative -- politically, and especially in your attitudes toward gays and lesbians -- than your less-squeamish counterparts, according to two Cornell studies.

The results, said study leader David Pizarro, Cornell assistant professor of psychology, raise questions about the role of disgust -- an emotion that likely evolved in humans to keep them safe from potentially hazardous or disease-carrying environments -- in contemporary judgments of morality and purity.

In the first study, published in the journal Cognition & Emotion (Vol.23: No.4), Pizarro and co-authors Yoel Inbar of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and Paul Bloom of Yale University surveyed 181 U.S. adults from politically mixed "swing states." They subjected these adults to two indexes: the Disgust Sensitivity Scale (DSS), which offers various scenarios to assess disgust sensitivity, and a political ideology scale. From this they found a correlation between being more easily disgusted and political conservatism.

To test whether disgust sensitivity is linked to specific conservative attitudes, the researchers then surveyed 91 Cornell undergraduates with the DSS, as well as with questions about their positions on issues including gay marriage, abortion, gun control, labor unions, tax cuts and affirmative action.

Participants who rated higher in disgust sensitivity were more likely to oppose gay marriage and abortion, issues that are related to notions of morality or purity. The researchers also found a weak correlation between disgust sensitivity and support for tax cuts, but no link between disgust sensitivity and the other issues.

And in a separate study in the current issue of the journal Emotion (Vol.9: No.3), Pizarro and colleagues found a link between higher disgust sensitivity and disapproval of gays and lesbians. For this study, the researchers used implicit measures (measures that have been shown to assess attitudes people may be unwilling to report explicitly; or that they may not even know they possess).

Liberals and conservatives disagree about whether disgust has a valid place in making moral judgments, Pizarro noted. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; that feeling disgusted about something -- gay sex between consenting adults, for example -- is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason. Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgments on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm.

Studying the link between disgust and moral could help explain the strong differences in people's moral opinions, Pizarro said; and it could offer strategies for persuading some to change their views.

"People have pointed out for a long time that a lot of our moral values seem driven by emotion, and in particular, disgust appears to be one of those emotions that seems to be recruited for moral judgments," said Pizarro.

That can have tragic effects -- as in cases throughout history where minorities have been victims of discrimination by groups that perceived them as having disgusting characteristics.

The research speaks to a need for caution when forming moral judgments, Pizarro added. "Disgust really is about protecting yourself from disease; it didn't really evolve for the purpose of human morality," he said. "It clearly has become central to morality, but because of its origins in contamination and avoidance, we should be wary about its influences."

Provided by Cornell University (news : web)

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NonRational
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 03, 2009
This research ties in with Jonathan Haidt's prior findings of the role of disgust and morality, particularly among religious groups. Conservatives seem to have a higher sensitivity to disgust, and therefore demand more nuanced and often unnecessary responses to the stimuli
freethinking
1.8 / 5 (14) Jun 03, 2009
Humm biased reporting....not sure. Conservatives what to clean up discusting things, liberals want to reveal in it. In other words, a piece of filth in your living room, a conservative wants to clean it up, a liberal wants to add to it.
Ronan
4 / 5 (4) Jun 03, 2009
Well, Freethinking, isn't that also a somewhat biased way to phrase it--just biased towards the opposite perspective? This is an interesting piece of research, I thought, although I'm not sure that there's a reason to so glibly write off disgust as serving ONLY as a means to avoid disease and suchlike things. Since humans DO apply disgust to moral judgments (to a certain degree, at least), isn't there a possibility that that's what we've evolved to do? There's a pretty strong selection pressure, after all, for heterosexuality, and disgust might make a good enforcer of that orientation, even if it (disgust) originally evolved for a different purpose.

...Not, of course, that that's necessarily correct, but it might be the case, at least. 'Tis an idea.
freethinking
2.5 / 5 (13) Jun 03, 2009
Ronan,



I dont disagree with you at all. As everyone knows, homosexual activity is a very unhealthy lifestyle choice, which is why homosexual activity causes so much disease.



The list of diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners:



Anal Cancer

Chlamydia trachomatis

Cryptosporidium

Giardia lamblia

Herpes simplex virus

Human immunodeficiency virus

Human papilloma virus

Isospora belli

Microsporidia

Gonorrhea

Viral hepatitis types B & C

Syphilis



Sexual transmission of some of these diseases is so rare in the exclusively heterosexual population as to be virtually unknown.

Morality may be the way you stay alive longer :)

gopher65
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 03, 2009
I'm sorry. Did you just try and claim that Gonorrhea is uncommon in the hetrosexual population? Ahahahahaahahaahahahahaahahaha! Nearly every guy at my highschool had Gonorrhea (and got treated for it), and the vast majority of them weren't gay.
VOR
2.8 / 5 (9) Jun 03, 2009
Conservatives are also more paranoid than liberals, per a similar study. And apparently, if freethinking is any example, conservatives' reasoning ability is impaired. Liberals dont want to add to disgusting things, that statement is frankly stupid. Liberals just dont overreact to things as much. And they are less overprotective and overaggressive militarily. 'You might be a conservative if...' If you think there's no such
thing as too much military. Or if you think gays dont deserve rights. It's the same thinking that limited women's rights and allowed slavery. Funny thing is they can only see (sometimes reluctantly) how wrong it is after the fact. Modern conservatives are just as wrong about contemporary issues as past conservatives were about past issues. It's not about opinions the way most people think it is. Its about having even-tempered judgement or not. It's about having empathy and tolerance for those different from you. And no, that doesn't mean bad thinking deserves credibility through tolerance. Part of the reason diversion will continue is that there are obviously (essentially) hard-wired psychological variances (from physical/genetic attributes) that contribute greatly to one's political leanings. We can only dream that we will eventually learn to quantify and objectify wiser thinking over less rational thinking, exposing in clear terms the flaws of such thinking, and thereby improving our condition as a society.
Fazer
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 03, 2009
This article is silly as are the comments about homosexuality and disease. I am gay and haven't been sick, of anything, in years. I routinely get scrapes and cuts and various injuries, from a very active job, but I don't remember the last time I even had a cold. Some of that has to do with how sexually active you are, but both straights and gays can choose to be promiscuous or not, to indulge in "disgusting" activities that might lead to disease, or to excercise restraint.

Additionally, I have known many gay men who are disgusted very easily. The ones I am thinking of are some of the pickiest eaters I have ever seen and will quickly send a restaurant meal back if the slightest thing is amiss.

How do we know the resaerchers didn't subconciously, or intentionally, pick things that conservatives would find disgusting? They could just have easily picked out things that would make gays, or liberals, or muslims, or eskimos disgusted. You have to be very carefull not to bias a study, especially regarding social behavior.

Notice that they didn't show any hard statistics in this article, perhaps there are very narrow margins. I'd have to see more results before I'd take it seriously.
Ronan
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2009
Freethinking: Hrm. The point I was trying to make was the rather simpler fact that those humans who are less likely to devote all their interest to members of the opposite gender are also less likely to pass on their genes. Just that, nothing more. As to the different disease incidences for the different orientations...Well, I haven't really looked into that much, so I don't know about that. I've heard a range of radically different things claimed, there.
magpies
2 / 5 (4) Jun 04, 2009
Wow the wierdos came out of the wood work for this one...
Nan2
3 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2009
^ uh-huh! Germane to the article now, the 'gross' out factor also relates possibly to economic status and/or religious views. Highly sheltered people living lifestyles based on puritanical belief systems and a sterilized environment produces 'sensitivity' to what is commonly seen in nature, of our body systems, etc. Some religions even view women as 'unclean' and continue to marginalize them based on that.

What is apparent is those long-standing myths on what is clean and what isn't clean can produce discriminatory behaviors based on that sheltered life or strong religious belief system. The more detached from nature it becomes, the more abnormal it really is to the realities of life as a part of the natural world. There is some research that suggests an overly clean environment of young children retards the immune system producing asthma more commonly perhaps and other illnesses.

Too many are made pariahs based on long-standing and false perceptions. Today, the thrust is towards those who are ill and that they are somehow at fault for being ill as the economic battle over health care is waged. Snap judgments of those who are obese or have other easily seen physical characteristics are made with harsh consequences socially. The perceptions and judgments have changed to include economic/financial motivations and self-preservation based on perceptions vs the reality.

Barriers came down in this regard in the past century, it would be tragic to see them rise again to challenge those who become ill through no fault of their own. For those that become ill because they made an error in youth, or dare to age; compassion seems missing in the dialog of those who have never laid hands on a sick person or seen those who suffer the consequences of the overly opinionated lacking in experiences and education to make those judgments.

Good thing doctors and nurses don't gross out easily.
Modernmystic
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 04, 2009
I'm getting pretty tired of these simplistic comparisons. Anyone knows that you can make statistics say virtually anything you want to. This is a blatantly slanted self serving study, and imo anyone who takes this kind of pseudo-scientific idiocy seriously needs to honestly reevaluate their own motivations for doing so.

As an aside I knew plenty of conservative types in the military who were anything but easily "grossed out". I'd like to get that group back together and run these numbers again. Without doubt we'd get the opposite conclusion and it would be just as pedantic as this one...
lengould100
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 04, 2009
I suspect, as in most oversimplifications of questions, there is likely some truth in the article's content, along with some error. And Modernmystic, regarding those conservatives in the military. Identifying a single outlier doesn't defeat a statistical result.
JCincy
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 04, 2009
Deep distress comes to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Jun 04, 2009
Interesting thing.... and I think I need to find the stats again.... most doctors and nurses are religious....

I also agree that the question was very oversimplified, and I think it was meant to bash conservatives... thats why I got on my rant...

BTW....I know serval conservative guys that faint at the sight of blood. But then I know others who like me could care less. All of us have children, so we have seen our share of everything so I cant figure out why some guys a wooses.... others just clean up the mess. I truely suspect it has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, but I sure would like to know what it is.
Gammakozy
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 04, 2009
Both the title of this piece and the conclusions of the researchers are blatantly slanted against conservatives and are good examples of the relentless efforts of liberals and their constituents to shape/warp public opinion through politically motivated studies and flawed statistics. For starters, why not a title as follows: "IMPOSSIBLE TO GROSS OUT? YOU'RE MORE LIKELY A LIBERAL". As for the conclusions, is it not as likely, and even more likely, that the reason liberals are not grossed out as readily as conservatives is that they are usually the ones who do the gross things and/or find rational or honest self-examination difficult. An alternative conclusion could also be that liberals "tolerate" unpleasant things because they have constructed denial walls for themselves with euphamisms such as pro-choice and gay lifestyle, which protect them from acknowledging the realities of the referenced activities and the associated repulsive images. Conservatives, on the other hand, are not so easily deterred from facing realities and are not reluctant to call a spade a spade. And finally, the idea that moral values are driven by emotions and that somehow this warrants a search for mechanisms to change such flawed (conservative) thinking is just simply bizarre.
freethinking
1.5 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2009
Bias against conservatives in the media, no way!
Bias against conservatives in the universities, no way!

Gammakozy who do you think you are to say there are biases against conservatives. I dont care what your facts are, I dont care all the examples you bring, I dont care about the truth.

As every liberal knows, Conservatives are dumb, stupid, ignorate, intollerant, dangerous, etc, and etc. Liberals on the other hand are sweet, caring,loving, kind, smart, etc.. that is why the media and universities are so against them, and slants things against them.
steelfire2
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 06, 2009
I think it's funny that this article is directly under "How many scientists fabricate and falsify research?"

Ironic...
steelfire2
5 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2009
freethinking:







"As every liberal knows, Conservatives are dumb, stupid, ignorate, intollerant, dangerous, etc, and etc. Liberals on the other hand are sweet, caring,loving, kind, smart, etc.. that is why the media and universities are so against them, and slants things against them."



--------------------------------------------------



Frankly I can't see how a liberal can call conservatives dumb, stupid ignorant, intolerant, dangerous, and ALSO consider themselves sweet, loving, smart.....







Now that's a liberal way of thinking.
mattytheory
3 / 5 (2) Jun 07, 2009
lol freethinking is just trying to stir the pot and you are all buying into it... hook line and sinker.
Birger
4 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2009
These statistical connections are probably just a matter of a few per cent...I am easily grossed out, but I am not a fan of George W Bush, nor Rush Limbaugh.
It would be more interesting to see any correlation to birth order. This has a strong correlation to many personality traits among siblings.
jimbo92107
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 08, 2009
I wonder how many of the commenters here actually read the whole article? First, the researchers discovered a statistical correlation, not causation. Second, disgust is a response learned from social indoctrination. Feeling disgusted at the prospect of eating a live earthworm isn't innate, it's learned, just like feeling disgust over gay marriage. The moral question is whether or not we should be indoctrinating ourselves to feel disgust over things that are not innately dangerous. That is a question to be asked of parents, teachers and preachers. Why are we wasting time and energy over false alarms?
gopher65
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2009
jimbo92107: Exactly.
Toddzzgod
not rated yet Jul 18, 2009
Yes. Wasted energy. I hate blood, spiders, and gore but couldnt care less who you sleep with. Homosexuals arent perverts, just people like the rest o us. Enough said!! Oh yea and about, Anal Cancer

Chlamydia trachomatis

Cryptosporidium

Giardia lamblia

Herpes simplex virus

Human immunodeficiency virus

Human papilloma virus

Isospora belli

Microsporidia

Gonorrhea

Viral hepatitis types B & C

Syphilis? I dont know very many homosexuals but i know straight people that have had many o these diseases. So like i said, or jimbo said wasted energy.
NonRational
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
I wonder how many of the commenters here actually read the whole article? First, the researchers discovered a statistical correlation, not causation. Second, disgust is a response learned from social indoctrination. Feeling disgusted at the prospect of eating a live earthworm isn't innate, it's learned, just like feeling disgust over gay marriage. The moral question is whether or not we should be indoctrinating ourselves to feel disgust over things that are not innately dangerous. That is a question to be asked of parents, teachers and preachers. Why are we wasting time and energy over false alarms?



Wow, you may have read the whole article, but I think you've read a bunch of other bunk. Disgust is a learned response? Disgust has been found to be an essential part of our ingrained morality. If you didn't "learn" to feel disgusted at the dad raping his child, you are up shit creek. Society didn't exist in it's modern form in, well, the past! Mother nature taught you to be disgusted. You give society too much power!

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