How Easily You Get Grossed Out Determines Your Views on Immigration, Study Finds

A recent paper shows that people who are easily disgusted are more likely to hold anti-immigration views. The findings are just the latest in a growing body of research on how disgust sensitivity affects human values and behavior.

First, why would disgust have anything to do with opinions on immigration?

Disgust is a protective emotion. It causes us to lurch back from a rotten apple, or steer far away from dog poop on the sidewalk. These reactions are part of the behavioral immune system, which evolved to help us detect and avoid things in our environment that cause disease. That’s why we find some things universally repulsive – urine, feces, vomit.

What’s strange, however, is that our sense of disgust can extend beyond these things and into the social world, causing some of us to feel repulsed by certain ethnic groups, homosexuality or social behavior. And because disgust is a protective emotion, it follows logically that people high in disgust sensitivity tend to be conservative thinkers. Over the past two decades, studies have shown that individuals who are easily disgusted are more likely to:

* Support conservative political parties and ideology
* Oppose gay marriage, abortion and immigration
* Strongly condemn moral violations

This recent paper makes the best case yet that sensitivity to disgust directly affects one’s views on immigration. It comes from University of Aarhus researchers Lene Aaroe and Michael Bang Petersen and Temple University’s Kevin Arceneaux, who used surveys to measure anti-immigration sentiment and disgust sensitivity among four sets of participants in the U.S. and Denmark.

By Stephen Johnson for Big Think
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