Our reactions to odor reveal our political attitudes

Our reactions to odor reveal our political attitudes
Researchers at the smell laboratory at Stockholm university. Jonas Olofsson standing. Credit: Niklas Björling

People who are easily disgusted by body odours are also drawn to authoritarian political leaders. A survey showed a strong connection between supporting a society led by a despotic leader and being sensitive to body odours like sweat or urine. It might come from a deep-seated instinct to avoid infectious diseases. "There was a solid connection between how strongly someone was disgusted by smells and their desire to have a dictator-like leader who can suppress radical protest movements and ensure that different groups 'stay in their places.' That type of society reduces contact among different groups and, at least in theory, decreases the chance of becoming ill," says Jonas Olofsson, who researches scent and psychology at Stockholm University and is one of the authors of the study.

Disgust is a basic emotion that contributes to survival. At its core, disgust is a protection against things that are dangerous and infectious—things that we want to avoid. The researchers had a theory that there would be a connection between feelings of disgust and how a person would want society to be organised. They thought that people with a strong instinct to distance themselves from unpleasant smells would also prefer a society in which different groups are kept separate. "Understanding the shared variance between basic emotional reactivity to potential pathogenic cues such as body odours and ideological attitudes toward groups perceived as deviant can prompt future investigations on what are the emotional determinants of outgroup derogation. In the future, this knowledge might inform policies to prevent ethnocentrism," says Marco Tullio Liuzza from Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro, Italy, one of the authors.

A scale was developed for the participants to rate their levels of disgust for body odours, both their own and others. The scale was used in a large-scale survey administered online in different countries, together with questions regarding political views. In the U.S., questions about how they planned to vote in the presidential race in 2016 were included. "It showed that people who were more disgusted by smells were also more likely to vote for Donald Trump than those who were less sensitive. We thought that was interesting, because Donald Trump talks frequently about how different people disgust him. He thinks that women are disgusting and that immigrants spread disease, and it comes up often in his rhetoric. It fits with our hypothesis that his supporters would be more easily disgusted themselves," says Jonas Olofsson.

The results of the study could be interpreted to suggest that authoritarian are innate and difficult to change. However, Jonas Olofsson believes that they can be changed even if they are deep-seated. "The research has shown that the beliefs can change. If contact is created between groups, authoritarians can change. It's not carved in stone. Quite the opposite, beliefs can be updated when we learn new things."

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Disgust is way of communicating moral rather than self-interested motivation

More information: Marco Tullio Liuzza et al. Body odour disgust sensitivity predicts authoritarian attitudes, Royal Society Open Science (2018). DOI: 10.1098/rsos.171091
Journal information: Royal Society Open Science

Citation: Our reactions to odor reveal our political attitudes (2018, February 28) retrieved 18 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-02-reactions-odor-reveal-political-attitudes.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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Feb 28, 2018
Just one of many studies by Marco Tullio Liuzza designed to say "Conservatives bad, liberals good.".

Feb 28, 2018
Just one of many studies...
Disgusting, isn't it?

Feb 28, 2018
I was just watching a vid on philosophy. The philo said that philosophy exists to answer questions that cannot be answered empirically.

But the above study provides more evidence that there is nothing that cannot be studied empirically.

There is nothing in the universe that is NOT entirely physical, including anything and everything about the human condition.

And by extension we are having increasing trouble finding reasons for formal philosophy in all its insidious manifestations, to exist.

Feb 28, 2018
This just confirms what I have always known. Progressives do not really mind people urinating and defecating in the streets, hallways and elevators. Also they are pro homeless ie they do not mind if their social policies create more dependant people.

Calling a leader that appeals to a conservative a "despot" highlights the bias that this paper is based on. Funny I always thought that the biggest despots in modern history were the communist leaders of the 1900s thru today.

Feb 28, 2018
Putting Trump in the same category as a despot just because he does not support some liberal views just shows the intolerance of the US left and their outright hatred of conservatives. The left's and RINO's actions to remove him border on criminal and treason. Laws have been broken in this quest.

Feb 28, 2018
There is absolutely nothing that the Left will not do in order to (a) Politicize every aspect of our existence; and (b) Use viciously and deliberately slanted 'Studies' to show how anyone disagreeing with their (ever-changing) viewpoints is intellectually and emotionally inferior.

Feb 28, 2018
In my opinion, the researchers for this project are really stretching the results to match their hypothesis.

The evidence more accurately displays that strict toilet training by reactionary parents. Followed by the beatings for failing to meet expectations. The resulting corruption of their personalities and the physical brain damage resulting. Is what causes the abused child to grow into an altright fairytail.

The innate disgust and shame is why they create laws forbidding human behavior, As the Bogus POTUS vividly shows the altrights are the majority customers for sexual perversions.

That they call themselves 'conservatives' or 'libertarians' is an abuse of the language. Their activities are that of quisling fascists and copperhead secessionists.

Feb 28, 2018
I must an oddity then

As I have a very picky nose, especially when it comes to humans.
And yet, I consider myself a liberal, and very much anti-authoritarian.

Maybe, it is because I have brain as well!

Just keep a smell-safe distance! LOL

Feb 28, 2018
"And yet, I consider myself a liberal, and very much anti-authoritarian."
Ugo if you are against government authority you are closer to a libertarian than a liberal. There is a HUGE difference between the two.

Feb 28, 2018
"And yet, I consider myself a liberal, and very much anti-authoritarian."
Ugo if you are against government authority you are closer to a libertarian than a liberal. There is a HUGE difference between the two.

More utter horseshite from "MR" sticky-sick.

Anti-Authoritarian, in the context of ugosugo's comment, clearly refers to the usage made in the article, IOW, a specific reference to a dictator or despot. This is, indeed, a strong sentiment among liberals.

Not so much among Libertarians, who don't give a flying f**k about anything other than no one limiting their freimarket income.

Feb 28, 2018
I wonder if feeding people "magic" mushrooms will also change their olfactory reactions. They have already been shown to change people's reaction to authoritarian ideas.


Feb 28, 2018
This has got to come from the Onion.

"Progressives do not really mind people urinating and defecating in the streets, hallways and elevators. Also they are pro homeless i.e. they do not mind if their social policies create more dependent people."

The capital of feces on the street is called San Francisco. The last time I was there you had to walk around all the bums sleeping on the sidewalks. The panhandlers were at the train station when you got on and when you got off in San Jose.

The only thing that is missing is to say that there is a 95% probability Deniers cause this.

Feb 28, 2018
Turgent might as well go all the way and use the magic 97% that all of the AGWers are so proud of. HeHe!

Mar 01, 2018
Cannot believe this ultra-left biased "study" made it into a science website.
It is not even fit to publish.
Shame of the editors!

Mar 01, 2018
Liberal academia reveres the writings of Marx and Lenin just like the conservatives respect the Old and New Testaments. The fact that 100 million or so were slaughtered in order implement these socialist dreams is of little consequence to academics. The authors of the paper are correct, nothing "smells" to liberals.

Mar 01, 2018
Can you believe the liberal press reported "The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit surveyed 153 blocks of downtown San Francisco in search of trash, needles, and feces. The investigation revealed trash littered across every block. The survey also found 41 blocks dotted with needles and 96 blocks sullied with piles of feces."

How is it we now 553,000 (down trodden masses) homeless victims? Part of it is caused by the CA liberal elite making housing so expensive that those without subsidized housing give up. And not in my backyard.

Best way to handle this is to sweep the liberal excrement under the rug. Squish, squish, slip, and stink.

Mar 01, 2018
I guess some are unaware those homeless are Reagan Victims. It was Rotten Ronnie who closed our mental hospitals.

Typical hateful conservatives. Let's make them pay for their Republican Wars.

Mar 01, 2018
So Ronnie didn't fund mental institutions! Congress controls the purse strings. Taking care of those who need a social welfare net is the responsibility of States. The Fed doesn't exist to wipe the stinking arse of parasitic liberals.

If dims really cared they would find a way to help with or without conservatives. Libs are always lying and blaming parasites wanting what someone else have.

Mar 01, 2018
Let's consider CA. It has the highest taxes. Try taking any money from the Dim's public employee unions and giving it to the truly needy. They threaten riot.

CA has failing public schools and highest paid teachers. Teach the children to expect gov. freebies and make sure they can't reason for themselves. More Dimtard useful idiots, like all the morons here that can't do math.

Mar 01, 2018
Liberal academia reveres the writings of Marx and Lenin just like the conservatives respect the Old and New Testaments. The fact that 100 million or so were slaughtered in order implement these socialist dreams is of little consequence to academics. The authors of the paper are correct, nothing "smells" to liberals.


This is the source of your inability to communicate effectively, "MR" sticky-sick --you have to first know the definitions of terms --rather than their ideologically produced cognates-- before rational discourse is possible.

E.G.: "Socialist". Socialism and Totalitarianism(or Authoritarianism or Communism, for that matter) are not, and never have been, equivalent.

Since this has been pointed out to you on more than one occasion, we have to assume that this is an intentional perversion of the truth, and so reject any of these types of comments out of hand.

Along with you.

Mar 01, 2018
Google Leading Socialists Caliban!


Mar 03, 2018
" it welcomes free entrepreneurship, but not once the entrepreneurs are immigrants. "

Big Mac I call a foul here. First of all you need to draw a line between legal immigrants and illegal ones. Then you have to draw a line between entrepreneurs that follow our laws and those that do not. If I want to start a legal business with an employee I have many very expensive insurance and tax obligations. If another chooses to pay illegals off the books they have a very unfair cost advantage and can easily drive me out of business.

Many illegals here work off the books and send a lot of their money home while their wives/girlfriends and children are given free hospital care, education and welfare payments. They have multiple families in single family homes which overloads the local school systems and raises property taxes to fund them.

Mar 03, 2018
MR166 and the rest of you altright fairytailed bigots. I've talked to my father's kinfolk and their conclusion about the lot of you?

None of you are White enough or American enough to meet their standards.

Far as their concerned? Tthe lot of you should be shipped back to the Old Country. Where you can resume your grandpa's position in the harness. Pulling the plow to furrow the fields of your Lord & Master.

Bon Voyage!

Ohh, and be sure to send postcards!

Mar 03, 2018

Whoops I need to apologize to Dims and Liberals. I have used the terms Dims, Liberals, and Leftists interchangeability. My references are to the Looney Leftists. Once again we can see the total absence of moderation and KNOWLEDGE, HISTORY, and HUMAN BEHAVIOR, as illustrated by rrwillsj. Consider the effects of the Balfour Decree and mass immigration into Lebanon in the 70s.

Rrwillsj "you ignorant slut"* you know nothing of where we came from and what we are. ALL the American people are the most generous in the world. There is no society on the planet that has strived for perfection as hard as Americans. Unfortunately Leftists have morphed this into victimology.

You're nothing but useful idiot crafted by the ignorance and political ambitions of others.


Mar 03, 2018
Many decades ago my family emigrated from Jamaica. I challenge you to find any Jamaicans , who all speak a beautiful version of the King's English, and their descendants who share any of your jaundice. They detest your hate and coveting of thy neighbors wealth. They seek to separate and distance themselves as far as they can from your vile. They are conservative because they are concerned with the destruction of Old World, Protestant Reformation, values.

If you would like to suggest a better source of societal values then make your case.

*Who do I quote?

Mar 03, 2018
"Whoops I need to apologize to Dims and Liberals."

No need. Your silly stuff is irrelevant.

Mar 03, 2018
WOW-----Turgent well said. You really get the meaning of the US and its constitution.

Mar 03, 2018
Thank you

Mar 04, 2018
The self-proclaimed patriots of the cul-de-sac right demand "Restoring" the Constitution.

Right up until your fuhrer Putin the Putz appointed the Dumpster as the Bogus POTUS.

Now you insist redacting large portions of the Constitution. Such as the Emoluments Clause, The entire 1st Amendment and the first half of the 2nd.

Because? Embarrassingly inconvenient for this Administration. That in 100 days has managed to out-corrupt and out-bungle, the Harding gang.

The 2nd Amdt is a perfect example of your blatant hypocrisy. You copperhead secessionists and corybantic fascists proclaim the 2nd as unholy scripture. While ignoring the first half of that amendment.

The purpose of that phrasing was to enforce State's Rights. However, your bunch of bungle boys know you couldn't pass the Mental Health exam for enlistment.

And if any of you were accidentally drafted? The only useful task that could found for you would have you rolling your bodies across minefields.

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