A study released this month by three professors at the University of Arkansas suggests that people in the midst of a repulsive stench who, in fact, find the stench repulsive, are more likely to hold views that are politically and socially conservative.
The study, entitled “Disgust and the Politics of Sex,” also found that people who don’t like disgusting odors are more likely to believe in “biblical truth” and to hold negative views toward homosexuality, reports Campus Reform.
“The finding that belief in biblical truth was greater among participants in the disgust odor condition was unexpected but is nonetheless consistent with previous work showing a relation between disgust and scrupulosity or being careful to avoid doing wrong,” the professors behind the study declare.
The study draws its sweeping conclusions based on a sample of just 57 research participants. The professors had 27 of the participants sit in a tiny room and exposed them to a strong aroma of butyric acid, which smells like vomit. The other 30 subjects smelled a non-vomitous tiny room.
At the same time that they were either dealing with noxious odors or not, these nearly five dozen human subjects also filled out a questionnaire containing moral and sexual concepts and scenarios. The researchers asked the subjects to rate various circumstances and issues on a scale from “extremely disgusting” to “not disgusting at all,” explains Campus Reform.
In a separate, odorless place, all subjects rated their personal political leanings.
All research participants received $10 for their efforts.
According to the preferences of 57 people, the professors conclude that a room reeking of vomit “caused attitudes to literally shift to the right.”
Out of the participants “in the no odor control group,” they say, none of them “strongly disagreed with allowing friends or family to pursue same-sex marriage.” However, 25.9 percent of the subjects exposed to stinky smells – that’s just under seven people, somehow – “strongly disagreed with allowing friends or family to pursue same-sex marriage.”
Additionally, “participants in the disgust odor condition were in significantly more agreement with biblical truth.”
The professors’ explanation for their findings is largely biological.
“When disgust is evoked, the behavioral immune system engages avoidance to prevent infection,” they argue. “As seen in the results of our study, it is possible that exposure to a disgusting odorant caused increased feelings of disgust, which in turn activated the harm avoidance system and motivated a desire for purity (cleanliness). Once these two systems were activated, it is possible that participants began to adopt attitudes that they perceived as decreasing social harm and/or increasing moral purity.”
The study was published on May 5 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed research publication full of articles on science and medicine.
The researchers behind the study are psychology professors Thomas G. Adams and John C. Blanchar, and political science professor Patrick A. Stewart.
A University of Arkansas representative told Campus Reform that the school does not endorse the results of the study per se. However, the flagship state school does endorse its professors publishing their work in peer-reviewed journals.