Science Of Disgust: Study Shows People Are Anti-Gay When Placed In Unsavory Environments

The science of disgust is the study of how offensive odors and sights can affect one’s belief systems, and a new study has found an interesting correlation between disgusting environments and one’s acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.

In a piece for the National Journal entitled, “Gay Marriage and the Political Psychology of Disgust,” writer Brian Resnick takes a look at a study emanating from the University of Arkansas.

Patrick Stewart, a political scientist at the school and lead on the study, conducted experiments placing individuals into two separate environments.

One environment contained an offensive odor while the other did not. Once the groups were divided, each individual answered questions on a variety of hot-button issues.

Now, in past studies, Resnick notes, individuals who were apt to be disgusted more easily tended to lean conservative, while those who did not, leaned liberal. Keep that in mind.

More from the NJ report:

Disgust reactions against gays [were] then correlated with negative attitudes toward same-sex marriage. That isn’t to say that conservatives are less tolerant of or hardwired to dislike gays. ‘I think the best way of looking at this is conservatives are wired to be a little more easily disgusted and fearful,’ Stewart says. ‘They are a little bit more wired to defensiveness in their environment.’ This is particularly apparent for sexual issues — not just gay marriage but for topics like pornography as well.

“But Stewart has also found that even liberal minds harbor these implicit associations.

“In a recently published experiment, Stewart and his colleagues demonstrated that the presence of a disgusting odor decreased support of gay marriage. Random samples were sorted into either an odor group (the researchers added a vomit-like smell to a room) or control groups (no odor). The participants were then asked about their feelings on an array of social and political issues. The results are clear: In the disgust condition ‘participants exposed to the smell… reported increased subjective disgust and more politically conservative attitudes concerning gay marriage, premarital sex, pornography, and Biblical truth.’ The disgusting odor had no impact on opinions on nonsexual political matters, such as tax cuts or immigration.”

In other words, according to this science of disgust experiment, liberals and conservatives voiced more displeasure with the LGBT lifestyle when placed in unsavory environments.

(Read more on the science of disgust here.)

Do you think that this shows social beliefs can be manipulated based on environment, even for those whose beliefs are already established? What conclusions, if any, do you take from the study?

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