How Disgust Influences Health Purity Attitudes
- 1k Downloads
Food and health regulations are increasingly being pushed onto the political agenda, with rising concerns about genetically modified foods, obesity rates, and vaccination. Public beliefs and attitudes on these issues often conflict with the scientific evidence, yet we know relatively little about what influences opinion on these issues. The public lacks clear partisan cues, and many food and health attitudes cut across the ideological spectrum. We argue that these issues represent new ‘purity’ attitudes that are driven by the emotion of disgust. Across three studies, both by measuring individuals’ trait disgust sensitivity and experimentally inducing an emotional state of disgust, we demonstrate the impact of disgust on food and health policy attitudes. Our results show that greater sensitivity to disgust is associated with support for organic foods, opposition to genetically modified foods, and anti-vaccination beliefs. However, we find only limited evidence that experimentally manipulated disgust affects attitudes toward genetically modified and organic foods. Overall, our results demonstrate that disgust plays an important role in attitudes regarding public health and broadens our understanding of purity attitudes.
KeywordsDisgust Emotion Health Purity Food Natural Organic Vaccination
The authors would like to thank the Duke Initiative on Survey Methodology for funding support and Antoine Banks, Stanley Feldman, Shana Gadarian, Jennifer Jerit, Rick Matland, and Spencer Piston for helpful comments.
- Clifford, S., & Jerit, J. (2013). How words do the work of politics: Moral foundations theory and the debate over stem cell research. The Journal of Politics, 1–13.Google Scholar
- Hauser, D. J., & Schwarz, N. (2015). Attentive turkers: MTurk participants perform better on online attention checks than do subject pool participants. Behavior Research Methods.Google Scholar
- Hausman, B. L., Ghebremichael, M., Hayek, P., & Mack, E. (2014). ‘Poisonous, filthy, loathsome, damnable stuff’: The rhetorical ecology of vaccination concern. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 87(4), 403–416.Google Scholar
- Marcus, G. E., Neuman, W. R., & Michael, M. (2000). Affective intelligence and political judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Mondak, J. J. (2010). Personality and the Foundations of Political Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Searles, K., and Mattes, K. 2015. It’s a mad, mad world: Using emotion inductions in a survey. Journal of Experimental Political Science, 1–11.Google Scholar
- Smith, P. J., et al. (2011b). Parental delay or refusal of vaccine doses, childhood vaccination coverage at 24 months of age, and the health belief model. Public health reports, 126(2), 135–146.Google Scholar
- Tybur, J. M., et al. (2010). Extending the behavioral immune system to political psychology: are political conservatism and disgust sensitivity really related? Evolutionary Psychology: An International Journal of Evolutionary Approaches to Psychology and Behavior, 8(4), 599–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar