I was over at Gerbil Report™ earlier today looking for something to replace the current worn-out quote of the day, and if you had asked me my reaction to the comments there (including my head Photoshopped onto a nude male cuddling up to Barack Obama), I would have said “disgusting.” I would say that about a lot of birtherism, and my reaction rekindled interest in something I had set aside a couple of weeks ago.
In my article, “Negativity merchants,” I quoted a scientific study that included these words:
A rapidly growing body of empirical evidence documents a multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other in purviews of life with little direct connection to politics, from tastes in art to desire for closure and from disgust sensitivity to the tendency to pursue new information…
I was curious when I published that as to where liberals and conservatives appear within the disgust sensitivity spectrum, but didn’t follow up then; today I did. The results surprised me, who thought nothing was too disgusting for the extreme right wing to say. In an article at the National Journal titled “Gay Marriage and the Political Psychology of Disgust,” the result was presented as the opposite of what I guessed:
Here’s the state of the science of disgust right now. Conservatives are thought to have a greater propensity to be disgusted than liberals do. Many studies corroborate this idea (see here, here, and here).
Now it may be that I use the word “disgust” more figuratively than the scientists. Perhaps my sense of “morally offensive” isn’t what they call disgust.
The real surprise in the article is that liberals answer questions more conservatively when the smell of vomit is introduced into the room. 😯