Yuck, right

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

 We might say that we find opponents’ political views “disgusting”, but did you know that your sensitivity to various forms of ickiness is actually correlated with political views. To find out how, rate each of the following on scale from 0 (not at all disgusting) to 100 (the most disgusting thing imaginable)

Watching someone eat ice cream with ketchup on it

Seeing a rat run across your path

Smelling urine in a doorway

Hearing about a 30 year old man who had sex with an 80 year old woman

Seeing man who’s been involved in an accident, and his guts are spilling out

Having to pick up the body of your friend’s dead pet cat

Taking a sip of drink, then realizing it’s a friend’s glass

Eating a piece of chocolate in the shape of a dog poo


Take the average of your scores (add up and divide by 8). The average score, when this study was done under test conditions at the University of Pennsylvania was 54. If your score was between 37 and 71, then you are averagely sensitive to disgust, making your politics difficult to predict. If you scored 71-88 or above 88, then you are very or extremely sensitive to disgust (for the stats geeks, these values represent 1 or 2 standard deviations from the mean), and likely to be politically on the right. If you scored 20-37, or below 20, then you are very or extremely insensitive to disgust, and likely to be politically on the left. It’s easy to, ahem, turn your nose up at these kinds of findings, but a recent study found that the link between disgust-sensitivity and political conservatism held across 30 different countries. Why? High sensitivity to disgust is associated with placing a high degree of importance on cultural norms (none of the above activities are likely to harm you – they’re just things that society says “we don’t do), which in turn is associated with traditional, conservative views.

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Are You Smarter Than A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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