A strange new study says you can tell whether a person is liberal or conservative by the way their brain responds to disgusting images.
In the study, 83 men and women viewed a series of images while researchers monitored their brain activity in a functional MRI machine. Some of the images pictured maggots, mutilated bodies, and gross stuff in a kitchen sink, and to compare, the subjects were also shown neutral and positive images. After being shown the images, the subjects were asked to rate their grossed out level for each image shown, and researchers used that information along with information taken about their political beliefs to make a conclusion.
“Remarkably, we found that the brain's response to a single disgusting image was enough to predict an individual's political ideology,” said Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute psychology professor Read Montague. Montague, who lead the study, also noted that genetics might have an effect on how one person leans politically, just as it does in predetermining a person’s height.
“Genetics predetermines height -– but not fully,” Montague said. “Nutrition, sleep, and starvation can all change someone's ultimate height. But tall people's children tend to be tall, and that's a kind of starting point.”
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“The results do not provide a simple bromide, but they do suggest that important foundational parts of political attitudes ride on top of preestablished neural responses that may have served to defend our forebears against environmental threats,” he also added.
Overall, Montague said that he hopes the study will reveal how the human brain is wired and how that could have an effect on political beliefs and ultimately on easing conflict between people with opposing viewpoints.
“If we can begin to understand that some automatic reactions to political issues may be simply that -- reactions -– then we might take the temperature down a bit in the current boiler of political discourse,” said Montague.