Ever wonder why someone becomes a Republican? Hint: it’s disgusting.

By Seriously Science | November 4, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Anne-Lise Heinrichs

Image: Flickr/Anne-Lise Heinrichs

Previous studies have hinted that our political views may stem from unconscious responses we have to intense stimuli, like disgusting pictures. To directly test this hypothesis, these scientists scanned people’s brains while showing them regular or disgusting images (be sure to check out the horrifying list below…if you dare). It turns out that the brain’s response to disgusting images could accurately predict whether a person is liberal or conservative. But, even more surprisingly, the subjects’ voiced opinions about the images did *not* correlate with their ideologies, suggesting that this response is hard-wired and not under our conscious control. Perhaps we are all robots after all…

Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology

“Political ideologies summarize dimensions of life that define how a person organizes their public and private behavior, including their attitudes associated with sex, family, education, and personal autonomy. Despite the abstract nature of such sensibilities, fundamental features of political ideology have been found to be deeply connected to basic biological mechanisms that may serve to defend against environmental challenges like contamination and physical threat. These results invite the provocative claim that neural responses to nonpolitical stimuli (like contaminated food or physical threats) should be highly predictive of abstract political opinions (like attitudes toward gun control and abortion). We applied a machine-learning method to fMRI data to test the hypotheses that brain responses to emotionally evocative images predict individual scores on a standard political ideology assay. Disgusting images, especially those related to animal-reminder disgust (e.g., mutilated body), generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation even though these neural predictors do not agree with participants’ conscious rating of the stimuli. Images from other affective categories do not support such predictions. Remarkably, brain responses to a single disgusting stimulus were sufficient to make accurate predictions about an individual subject’s political ideology. These results provide strong support for the idea that fundamental neural processing differences that emerge under the challenge of emotionally evocative stimuli may serve to structure political beliefs in ways formerly unappreciated.”

Bonus excerpt from Appendix S1:


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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    A Conservative embraces all the world’s failures with gusto. A Liberal charges for them.


      That because Republicans view disastrous events ( such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq) as a chance to spread the ideology, will and make a profit off others misery. As long as those affected are viewed as less than equal, ie foreign. That’s why the Iraq invasion had so many limits on what was seen or broadcast by news outlets. They want the outcome without having to see the nasty consequences.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        It is a choice between incompetent fascists, corporatists, Homeland Severity, and double-digit IQ christ-besotted jackasses against puerile bleeding heart Liberals, welfare pimps, Enviro-whiners, feminazis, Queer Nation, Homeland Severity, and -0.25% interest multi-$trillion Federal Reserve madness.

        Choose wisely.

        • Astrodwarf

          That’s one vote for ‘None of the above’…

    • Jason Semple

      A. This makes no sense.
      B. I think you’re confusing liberal/conservative with Democrat/Republican. These are not synonyms.

      • Scott Sterling

        I think they’re confusing bulls*t with something of value. How low does a “news” outlet have to go before they decide something is not fit for publication.

        • Jason Semple

          It’s statistical data and Discover is a science magazine.
          I think you’ll find that how we understand the world is heavily influenced by our brain chemistry and physical neurology. I personally speculate that conservatives and liberals share many core values and differ mostly in the how those values are communicated.
          Like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Conservatives and liberals are talking about the same things but from different narrow points of view and those narrow perspectives are products of our neural biology.

        • Leon Foonman M.D.

          Everything is acceptable at FoxTreason

  • jhertzli

    The political ideology measurement was based on the Wilson–Patterson scale. In the WP measurement, experimental subjects are asked their opinions of “obedience” and “small government.” If obedience is considered right-wing … obedience to whom?

    There are other topics in the WP questionnaire in which the political lineup changes from decade to decade. Is “globalization” left wing this week? Is “school standards” a conservative slogan this week?

    I won’t more than mention that a sample size of 83 is more than a bit dubious.

  • RogerWilli

    Here’s the image that my brain processed after reading this: Libs, leftists and Dems have been so dumbed down by their leadership over the years that they were … before last night’s midterms … apparently inoculated against anything bizarre and offensive. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time … so the question “Will America survive its liberals, leftists … and Democrats?” … is not now as fatalistic as it once was! America is beginning to wake up!

    • Mario Rodgers

      Absolute bull. Science has proven intelligence tends to favor left side thinking while economics has proven things get better under democrats at both the state and federal level.

      • RogerWilli

        Sure …
        Spying on Congress gets better
        Printing $40 Billion a day gets better
        Doubling the debt gets better
        Lying on Benghazi gets better
        Increasing ACA premiums 40%
        Email servers in basements
        Bill Clinton $700,000 speeches
        Russia controls 20% US uranium
        Did Hillary sell state secrets?
        Why do ‘donations’ come to her?

        • Mario Rodgers

          You’re a quack if that’s the best you can come up with to go against why blue states do well while red states go broke and starve their people(with a few noted exceptions like Texas).
          There are just as many corporate shills on the democrat side as there are on the republican side. Hillary is one of those democrat shills.
          ACA is a retooled republican plan. It is not insurance, nor is it perfect, but it is helping more people than hurting. It is still no substitute for true universal healthcare, but at least now the insurance companies can’t get away with certain scams.
          Oh look. Another “But but but Benghazi!” moron. Have a nice day in right wing conspiracy la la land.

    • Jeremy Michaels

      You just proved the author’s point. Who’s been dumbed down? And who plagiarizes speeches?

      • Leon Foonman M.D.


    • Leon Foonman M.D.

      Go change your Depends, please. It’s gross.

  • Buddy199

    Give it a rest.

  • RogerWilli

    Never fails to astonish me that Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, articulated the Emancipation Proclamation … while Democrats then were loathe to so do!

    How did Democrats today become THIS dumbed-down?

    • Leon Foonman M.D.

      Sorry , but the GOP adopted the bigots with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. You embraced them , and now you ARE them.
      Oh well, you know LIncoln would be horrified by the disgusting, racist creepy GOP, now, just like a lot of us conservatives who now have no party.


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