During the Democratic debate Saturday, Hillary Clinton returned late to the podium from a bathroom break. Yesterday Donald Trump said, "I know where she went - it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it." Then today Post columnist Zachary Goldfarb said that in using the word "disgusting," Mr. Trump had played a clever trick, describing research showing that conservatives react far more strongly to disgusting or repellent images than liberals and moderates do. Mr. Goldfarb summarized the research as follows:
Consciously, liberal, moderate and conservative participants showed no significant differences in rating these pictures [such as pictures of dead animals and dirty toilets], although conservatives “had marginally higher disgust sensitivity than the liberal group.” But things changed when the subject had their brains scanned using fMRI machines as they saw the images.
With a more than 90 percent success rate, the researchers were able to predict whether the participants were conservative or liberals based on how regions of their brains lit up while viewing the images. And it turned out that conservatives had a much stronger reaction to disgusting images than liberals. Reactions to other types of images were not predicted by political views.
“Disgusting images … generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation,” the authors write. “Remarkably, brain responses to a single disgusting stimulus were sufficient to make accurate predictions about an individual subject’s political ideology.”
The delightfully ironic kicker: immediately below this portion of the online version of the article, the Post ran this apposite image. Someone in Washington has a sense of humor.