Your Reaction to This Photo Can Tell if You're Liberal or Conservative

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Next time you see some roadkill, stop and take a good, long look. Your reaction might show who it is you're voting for in a few days.

A team of researchers decided to show subjects pictures of mutilated animals, maggots and general disgusting-ness and measure their brain activity — you know, for science. What they found was that a person's response to a gross image could actually predict their politics.

"A single disgusting image was sufficient to predict each subject's political orientation," said Virginia Tech professor P. Read Montague, who led the study. "I haven't seen such clean predictive results in any other functional imaging experiments in our lab or others."

How it works: The team took 83 volunteers and attached them to functional MRI machines. The subjects were then shown a group of pictures classified as disgusting, threatening, pleasant or neutral.

After their brain reactions were scanned, they were asked to rate the pictures and take a survey indicating their political attitudes as well as other questionnaires to test their reaction to disgust and anxiety level.


Image Credit: Current Biology

As it turns out, different parts of the brain are active when conservatives and liberals respond to disgusting sights. Both may be grossed out (though conservatives are a little more sensitive to disgust, the researchers found), but something different is happening on the inside.

What it means: The researchers said the different reactions are likely genetic, rather than learned — we inherited how to react to disgusting things from our parents, in other words. Because of the political connection, they posit that a good amount of our political ideology could be inherited as well.

That doesn't mean everything about how you vote is in your genes. Montague related it to height, which is partially genetic but also has other factors. "In the same sense that height is highly genetically specified, it's also true that it's not predetermined by genetics; nutrition, sleep, starvation, dramatic physical injury, and so on can serve to change one's ultimate height," he said. "However, tall people have tall children, and this is a kind of starting point."

So from your height to your voting behavior to your response to roadkill, science has the same answer — blame mom and dad.

h/t Huffington Post

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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