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Liberals and Conservatives React in Wildly Different Ways to Repulsive Could explain a few things. Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   Censport 

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 03:29 PM

Liberals and Conservatives React in Wildly Different Ways to Repulsive Pictures
To a surprising degree, our political beliefs may derive from a specific aspect of our biological makeup: our propensity to feel physical revulsion.
The Atlantic
Kathleen McAuliffe
March 2019 Issue



I. “My Jaw Dropped”

Why do we have the political opinions we have? Why do we embrace one outlook toward the world and not another? How and why do our stances change? The answers to questions such as these are of course complex. Most people aren’t reading policy memos to inform every decision. Differences of opinion are shaped by contrasting life experiences: where you live; how you were raised; whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. Emotion comes into the picture, and emotion has a biological basis, at least in part. All of this and more combines into a stew without a fixed recipe, even if many of the ingredients are known.

On rare occasions, we learn of a new one—a key factor that seems to have been overlooked. To a surprising degree, a recent strand of experimental psychology suggests, our political beliefs may have something to do with a specific aspect of our biological makeup: our propensity to feel physical disgust.

In the mid-2000s, a political scientist approached the neuroscientist Read Montague with a radical proposal. He and his colleagues had evidence, he said, that political orientation might be partly inherited, and might be revealed by our physiological reactivity to threats. To test their theory, they wanted Montague, who heads the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech, to scan the brains of subjects as they looked at a variety of images—including ones displaying potential contaminants such as mutilated animals, filthy toilets, and faces covered with sores—to see whether neural responses showed any correlation with political ideology. Was he interested?

Montague initially laughed at the idea—for one thing, MRI research requires considerable time and resources—but the team returned with studies to argue their case, and eventually he signed on. When the data began rolling in, any skepticism about the project quickly dissolved. The subjects, 83 in total, were first shown a randomized mixture of neutral and emotionally evocative pictures—this second category contained both positive and negative images—while undergoing brain scans. Then they filled out a questionnaire seeking their views on hot-button political and social issues, in order to classify their general outlook on a spectrum from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. As Montague mapped the neuroimaging data against ideology, he recalls, “my jaw dropped.” The brains of liberals and conservatives reacted in wildly different ways to repulsive pictures: Both groups reacted, but different brain networks were stimulated. Just by looking at the subjects’ neural responses, in fact, Montague could predict with more than 95 percent accuracy whether they were liberal or conservative.

The subjects in the trial were also shown violent imagery (men pointing revolvers directly at the camera, battle scenes, car wrecks) and pleasant pictures (smiling babies, beautiful sunsets, cute bunnies). But it was only the reaction to repulsive things that correlated with ideology. “I was completely flabbergasted by the predictability of the results,” Montague says.

His collaborators—John Hibbing and Kevin Smith at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and John Alford at Rice University, in Houston—were just as surprised, though less by the broad conclusion than by the specificity of the findings and the startling degree of predictability. Their own earlier research had already yielded a suggestive finding, indicating that conservatives tend to have more pronounced bodily responses than liberals when shown stomach-churning imagery. However, the investigators had expected that brain reactions to violent imagery would also be predictive of ideology. Compared with liberals, they’d previously found, conservatives generally pay more attention—and react more strongly—to a broad array of threats. For example, they have a more pronounced startle response to loud noises, and they gaze longer at photos of people displaying angry expressions. And yet even in this research, Hibbing says, “we almost always get clearer results with stimuli that are disgusting than with those that suggest a threat from humans, animals, or violent events. We have an ongoing discussion in our lab about whether this is because disgust is simply a more powerful and more politically relevant emotion or because it is an emotion that is easier to evoke with still images in a lab setting.”

Findings so dramatic, especially in the social sciences, should be viewed with caution until replicated. The axiom that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof clearly applies here. That said, Hibbing, Montague, and their colleagues are scarcely alone in linking disgust and ideology.

Using a far cruder tool for measuring sensitivity to disgust—basically a standardized questionnaire that asks subjects how they would feel about, say, touching a toilet seat in a public restroom or seeing maggots crawling on a piece of meat—numerous studies have found that high levels of sensitivity to disgust tend to go hand in hand with a “conservative ethos.” That ethos is defined by characteristics such as traditionalism, religiosity, support for authority and hierarchy, sexual conservatism, and distrust of outsiders. 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.”

II. The Behavioral Immune System

Broadly speaking, studies of possible connections between ideology and susceptibility to disgust fall into two categories. The first involves measuring subjects’ sensitivity to disgust as well as their social or political ideologies and then calculating the correlation between the two. The second category explores whether exposure to disgusting subject matter can actually influence people’s views in the moment. But whatever the type of study, the same general finding keeps turning up. “We are at the point where there is very solid evidence for the association,” says Michael Bang Petersen, a political scientist at Aarhus University, in Denmark. His own research finds that “disgust influences our political views as much as or even more than long-recognized factors such as education and income bracket.”


Much, much more (I think Atlantic pays by the word) here.
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#2 User is offline   NH Populist 

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 04:39 PM

I'm betting you'd get the same reaction if, rather than having a disgusting picture to look at, the image you see in your head were put there by someone describing what it would look like if a healthy newborn was left to die on a table. I can picture that image in my head and my reaction makes me about as conservative as anyone can be...
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#3 User is online   Dean Adam Smithee 

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 04:50 PM

I suspect conditioning probably has a lot to do with it. If there's a 'political' element to it, it's probably that conservatives are more likely to knuckle down and 'get through' the situations that liberals shy away from, and thus become more inured to such things.

Consider people like EMS, LEO, Military, etc. These people see things from time to time that would make most civilians wretch. But NOBODY starts out used to such things; it takes time.

Or Farmers, even. They're not born used to seeing dead animals; they become used to it because it's part of the job.
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#4 User is offline   Censport 

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 07:40 PM

I think it's possible that this research could explain things like why Leftists can support abortion and even infanticide. Also why they throw rape allegations around so lightly.
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#5 User is offline   Gertie Keddle 

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 09:18 AM

Fair to say most conservatives would be repulsed by this twitter thread, while Democrats don't see anything wrong.
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#6 User is offline   zurg 

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 09:26 AM

This explains why leftists could vote for Hillary and not have a reaction.
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#7 User is offline   grimreefer 

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Posted 10 February 2019 - 09:35 AM

View Postzurg, on 10 February 2019 - 09:26 AM, said:

This explains why leftists could vote for Hillary and not have a reaction.

http://www.rightnation.us/forums/uploads/1547560632/gallery_6133_220_12410.jpg
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#8 User is online   JerryL 

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 03:03 AM

View PostGertie Keddle, on 10 February 2019 - 09:18 AM, said:

Fair to say most conservatives would be repulsed by this twitter thread, while Democrats don't see anything wrong.

The embrace this creepy old <censored> and might even nominate him for president.

This post has been edited by JerryL: 11 February 2019 - 03:03 AM

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#9 User is offline   Censport 

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Posted 11 February 2019 - 09:09 AM

View PostJerryL, on 11 February 2019 - 03:03 AM, said:

The embrace this creepy old <censored> and might even nominate him for president.

One of my HS classmates certainly would (excitedly posted on FB about attending an upcoming event with Biden, and her fellow vaginahat feminist friends posted their support/envy/best wishes). And she works on the city's domestic violence program that Karl Dean started.

The amount of cognitive dissonance it takes to be a Leftist is astounding.

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#10 User is offline   Lori 

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 07:20 AM

View PostGertie Keddle, on 10 February 2019 - 09:18 AM, said:

Fair to say most conservatives would be repulsed by this twitter thread, while Democrats don't see anything wrong.

Wow. I couldn't watch the other ones after seeing just the first one; just reading the descriptions was gross. What a creep. I love how that girl (in first video) stepped away, though. Disgusting.
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