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Easily grossed out? You may be a 'conservative'

world Updated: Jun 06, 2009 14:55 IST

Are you easily grossed out? If 'yes', then you may a conservative person, say researchers.

Two new studies have revealed these kind of people are more conservative - politically, and in attitudes toward gays and lesbians - than their less-squeamish counterparts.

Lead researcher David Pizarro of Cornell University said the studies 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 'Cognition & Emotion' journal, the researchers surveyed 181 US 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 students 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 study has found.

And in a separate study in the 'Emotion' journal, the researchers 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 whether disgust has a valid place in making moral judgement. Conservatives have argued that there is inherent wisdom in repugnance; feeling disgusted about something is cause enough to judge it wrong or immoral, even lacking a concrete reason."

"Liberals tend to disagree, and are more likely to base judgements on whether an action or a thing causes actual harm," Pizarro said.

Studying the link between disgust and moral judgement 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 judgements," he said.