Of Trump and disgust

I wanted to write a post tying Donald Trump’s far too easily disgusted personality (Hillary Clinton uses the bathroom!) to some really interesting research on disgust and partisanship, but I got too lazy.  But now that Wonkblog has gone to the trouble, I will paste liberally, as this is really great stuff:

In fact, a growing mass of academic research has shown that conservatives have a particular revulsion to “disgusting” images…

Some of the recent research has been most pronounced evaluating the differing responses of conservatives and liberals to “disgusting” or “negative” images. Several studies have shown that conservatives are far more likely to have strong reactions to these images or situations than moderates or liberals are. [emphasis mine] Researchers have also suggested that conservatives are more likely to respond negatively to threats or be prone to believe conspiracies, perhaps helping explain why Trump’s calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States or build a wall at the southern border have resonated with many voters…

With a more than 90 percent success rate, the researchers were able to predict whether the participants were conservative or liberals based on how regions of their brains lit up while viewing the images. And it turned out that conservatives had a much stronger reaction to disgusting images than liberals. Reactions to other types of images were not predicted by political views.

“Disgusting images … generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation,” the authors write. “Remarkably, brain responses to a single disgusting stimulus were sufficient to make accurate predictions about an individual subject’s political ideology.”

Actually, just the other day I was out with my two way-too-easily-disgusted sons and saying that I was worried they might end up Republicans because of this personality trait.  They are both plenty liberal now (especially so on environmental issues), but if they end up conservative, I will be blaming their heightened sense of disgust.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Of Trump and disgust

  1. R, Jenrette says:

    Disgust with our “animal” acts is right in line with conservative and Puritan thinking. Consider attitudes toward sex – it can only be tolerated if for the purpose of procreation. Or eating – gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins. Or dancing – too close and might provoke a sexual desire. Or eliminating the body’s waste products – gross and animal like. Or Darwin’s Theory – what, us? We are higher beings and not descended from animals.
    Whereas liberals embrace our whole bodies and relate to animals….even tho we eat some of them. So liberals are less vehemently disgusted by smelly body functions. and other acts we share with animals.
    Some of us even liberals, never do get over our 8-12 year old hilarity at bodily functions.

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