Members in the Media
From: The Atlantic

Liberals and Conservatives React in Wildly Different Ways to Repulsive Pictures

Why do we have the political opinions we have? Why do we embrace one outlook toward the world and not another? How and why do our stances change? The answers to questions such as these are of course complex. Most people aren’t reading policy memos to inform every decision. Differences of opinion are shaped by contrasting life experiences: where you live; how you were raised; whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. Emotion comes into the picture, and emotion has a biological basis, at least in part. All of this and more combines into a stew without a fixed recipe, even if many of the ingredients are known.

On rare occasions, we learn of a new one—a key factor that seems to have been overlooked. To a surprising degree, a recent strand of experimental psychology suggests, our political beliefs may have something to do with a specific aspect of our biological makeup: our propensity to feel physical disgust.

In the mid-2000s, a political scientist approached the neuroscientist Read Montague with a radical proposal. He and his colleagues had evidence, he said, that political orientation might be partly inherited, and might be revealed by our physiological reactivity to threats. To test their theory, they wanted Montague, who heads the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech, to scan the brains of subjects as they looked at a variety of images—including ones displaying potential contaminants such as mutilated animals, filthy toilets, and faces covered with sores—to see whether neural responses showed any correlation with political ideology. Was he interested?

Read the whole story: The Atlantic

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