Is there correlation between Conservative morals and politics and Disgust?

One of the six basic emotions, disgust is a physical reaction of revulsion — a guttural effect of intense dislike — often to something which is, itself, revolting. Rotten food, unhealthy hygiene, infected wounds, are generally considered by the universal psyche to elicit this arresting response.

Other inciters are imbued in us via cultural and social learning. The energy of the emotion is difficult to evade – nearly as difficult as it is to accept and walk through. I suppose there is an argument that if the emotion were any less powerful we would have learned to avoid the sensation completely by now.

A widely cited fMRI study suggests that reading about certain socio-moral violations can induce patterns of neural activity that overlap with those observed when reading about more concrete disgust elicitors (Moll et al., 2005). This article is influential because of its claim that socio-moral violations cause a disgust response.


The dyspeptic unease causes swift transference of this intestinal quease into other emotions — just as the fear of being almost hit on the freeway is translated into a burst of anger. This transmutation happens so quickly, the underlying emotional response is often not consciously noted. Note that we are not ‘disgusted’ for long periods — we escape the area or transmute the response into higher forms, and evade.

With that in mind I wonder if it is disgust, which is “the first step in dehumanizing” the Other, or if it is the diagnosis of corruption, or the threatening assessment of contamination or the outrage against disease, or the simple lack of purity, which justifies — even at times mandates — the act of dehumanization.

I’m not qualified to make a judgement or even guess at that answer, but dehumanization is an ‘act’ not an emotion. Secondary emotions like anger, revulsion, outrage, and corruption are emotive, yes. They are inciters of action. But again, this topical sidestep quickly brings me to my limit for musing as well.

As a point of interest, studies done over the last few years (since 2013 I believe), have demonstrated with consistent replication how disgust ‘plays an important role in politically Conservative moral judgments, helping to explain why conservatives and liberals differ in their attitudes on issues’ for which conservatives have culturally aligned with purity, honor, and even sanctity.

I have witnessed quite often the use of this measure to define linguistically conservative conceptions of manliness, while fettering levels of tolerance. The outcomes of these studies have been so consistent, that some wonder if disgust is a Conservative emotion.

The metaphoric use for verbalizing the ‘Party’ beliefs on issues such as immigration, abortion, homosexuality, religion, pathogens and pandemics is certainly based on disgust, and abhorrence. For example the Republican metaphors for debating Immigration are as pollutant or infection.

… conservative opposition to abortion is not just an overriding respect for all life. If it were, conservatives would not favor the death penalty. Nor is it a matter of protecting the lives of innocent children waiting to be born… conservatives would be working to lower the infant mortality rate by supporting prenatal care programs. The fact the conservatives oppose such programs means that they are not simply in favor of the right-to-life… Instead, there is a deep and abiding, but usually unacknowledged, reason why conservatives oppose abortion, namely, that it is inconsistent with metaphor of Strict Father morality.

While certainly of interest for those in psychology, it has become increasingly apparent that understanding the ramifications of disgust based mentalities in politics, is a requirement for the far-right conservative culture. The far-right mindset has made pivotal alterations, which impose disgust as justification for their platform. This platform is then referred to when consecrating the social base of acceptable morality, decency, social justice, and even their canon definition of humanity. This in turn has driven and redefined perfectionistic demands, behavioral proscription and exceptionalism.

The emotion of disgust is typically experienced as a feeling of revulsion elicited by something offensive—e.g., bodily fluids and waste, animal products, rotten food, and certain classes of sexual behavior, and is accompanied by a strong desire to withdraw from the eliciting stimulus (Rozin et al., 1984; Oaten et al., 2009).

The bowels, not the mind, therefore, define the edge and condone the actions, absolving the intrinsic discretion and bestowing by virtue of entitlement what is reverent for conservatives, and what is shamed. It is the same imperative bestowing allowance and absolution for polishing trumpery into macaroni.


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