The Human Brain

The Human Brain

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why Does Disgust Induction Cause Conservatives to Become More Prejudice but Liberals Less Prejudice?

For the purposes of this post, I am going to refer to high authoritarians as conservatives and low authoritarians as liberals. I have two reasons for doing this: 1. Political conservatism is strongly correlated with right-wing authoritarianism and 2. Liberal and conservative are terms that are more manageable and easily understood.
There are many possible reasons why conservatives and liberals react differently to disgust induction. Haidt’s research suggests that liberals and conservatives differ in regard to their moral emotions. In other words, conservatives and liberals base their moral judgments on different emotions. For example, liberals are more sensitive to empathy whereas conservatives are more sensitive to disgust.
One possible reason why conservatives become more prejudice when disgusted may be because they are more sensitive to disgust. But this does not help explain why liberals become less prejudice when they are disgusted.
It is possible that liberals are averse to prejudice. The aversive racism literature suggests that people avoid expressing prejudicial attitudes so they are not seen as bigots. Thus, liberals are disgusted at the prospect of being prejudice whereas conservatives are disgusted by homosexuality.
Disgust is an emotion that originally evolved to avoid oral ingestion of contaminants as Darwin suggested in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. More recently, Haidt and colleagues have indicated that morally repugnant acts can induce disgust. My hunch is that evolution designed the emotion of disgust as a general mechanism for the avoidance of undesirable stimuli but our culture is what tweaks the knobs.
More research needs to be done to confirm this hypothesis.

1 comment:

Iverson said...

You make too many assumptions, which makes your conclusions meaningless. This is not a criticism, but rather an observation.

Meaninglessness should not be judged in prejudicial terms. Rather we should adopt a neutral stance when utilizing the language of relevance and validity.

Even the act of making too many assumptions can be a political statement. It can be an act of defiance against the oppression of facts and conceptual rigidity.