Body odor disgust sensitivity independently predicts authoritarian attitudes
2016 (English)Conference paper, Poster (Other academic)
The behavioral immune system (BIS) provides us a set of emotional and behavioral responses to avoid the threat of pathogens. Individual differences in BIS can make some individuals endorse social values that minimize the contact with groups that might be perceived unfamiliar or deviant. Disgust is one of the emotions that is most consistently involved in the BIS and it has been found to be consistently related to socially conservative attitudes. Disgust sensitivity to body odors plays a crucial role in the BIS but it has been largely understated by research linking disgust sensitivity. We the developed a new scale that measures individual differences in body odors disgust sensitivity (BODS) and assessed how this measure related to conservative attitudes. We hypothesized that the BODS should relate to social, but not economic, conservatism, as only the latter should share common motives with the BIS. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the BODS should share more core motives with conservatism and thus it should at least partially mediate the relationship between general disgust sensitivity measures and conservatism. We developed a 30 items measure of BODS where participants had to rate how they would feel disgusted in five different scenarios involving six body odors consistently linked to disease detection. We ran three studies (N = 200, N = 159 and N = 269) through Amazon Mechanical Turk where we collected participants’ differences in: BODS, three domains of disgust (TDD) (studies 1-3), disgust sensitivity (DS, studies 2-3), Perceived Vulnerability to Disease (PVD, studies 2-3) and in social conservatism (Right-Wing Authoritarianism RWA, studies 1-3) and economic conservatism (Social Dominance Orientation, SDO, study 3). We ran zero order correlations to assess the relationship between BODS, other Disgust Sensitivity measures and conservatism measures. Akaike Information Criterion based stepwise model selection procedures were used to identify the variables that mostly accounted for participants’ variance in conservatism. Mediation analyses were ran to test the hypothesis that BODS could mediate, at least partially the relationship between general disgust sensitivity measures and conservatism.
Results: Across three studies we found that 1) BODS has good convergent validity with other measures of general disgust sensitivity (Studies 1-3) 2) BODS is consistently and independently related to RWA even when taking into account DS-R and/or TDD (Studies 1-3) 3) BODS relates to social, but not economic conservatism 4) BODS at least partially mediates the relationship between general disgust sensitivity measures and social conservatism (Studies 1-3). Our results show that body odor disgust sensitivity independently predicts socially conservative attitudes, and our findings suggest that the study of the biological basis of social attitudes would benefit from an increased focus on basic sensory-emotional processes. While our approach is broadly congruent with current theoretical frameworks emphasizing the evolutionary roots of disgust in basic chemosensory processes, an increased empirical focus on body odor perception might provide a unique link between pathogen detection and social regulation mechanisms.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
behavioral immune system, body odors, disgust
Research subject Psychology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141088OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141088DiVA: diva2:1085773
28th APS Annual Convention, Chicago, Ill., USA, May 26-29, 2016.