Thu, Mar 01, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Body odor haters prefer Trump: study


People easily disgusted by body odors seem to prefer authoritarian leaders and were likelier to support US President Donald Trump, a study into the origins of ideology suggested yesterday.

The seemingly obscure link might be rooted in a deep-seated instinct to avoid disease — whether in people whose smell suggests they are germ-carriers, or “unfamiliar” people, such as immigrants or minorities, it said.

The study results “contribute to the growing evidence that contemporary social attitudes may be rooted in basic sensory functions,” the researchers wrote.

In two online surveys, the team asked people in several countries a series of questions to determine their level of “body odor disgust sensitivity,” as well as their position on the political spectrum.

They were looking for signs of “right-wing authoritarianism,” which study author Marco Liuzza from Italy’s Magna Graecia University summarized as an attitude “promoting aggressive policies toward groups perceived as deviant or threatening traditional values.”

Analysis of the data revealed a “solid connection” between how strongly people reacted to body smells and their desire for a leader who can keep groups of people “in their places,” coauthor Jonas Olofsson of Stockholm University said.

In a third test with US participants, the researchers looked for a correlation between body odor sensitivity and support for Trump.

The study, published in the Royal Society journal Open Science, was conducted when Trump and former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton were rival candidates for the presidency.

The results “showed that people who were more disgusted by smells were also more likely to vote for Donald Trump than those who were less sensitive,” Olofsson said.

“We thought that was interesting, because Donald Trump talks frequently about how different people disgust him... It fits with our hypothesis that his supporters would be more easily disgusted themselves,” he said.

Disgust is a survival tool that helps humans avoid health threats.

It can also be triggered by non-infectious stimuli, including by people who “deviate” from the societal norm, whether it be physically, morally or with their sexual preferences.

Smells listed in the questionnaires included breath, sweat, feet, feces, urine and gas — the participants’ own and that of strangers.

Political questions tested a participant’s stand on issues, such as abortion, pornography, religion and morality in general, as well as whether they intended to vote for Trump.

Theorizing on the connection with body odor recoil, Olofsson proposed that living in an authoritarian society “reduces contact among different groups and, at least in theory, decreases the chances of becoming ill.”

The study of authoritarianism was important “as it appears relevant to explain current political trends,” the team said.

“Our findings highlight body odor disgust as a new and promising domain in political psychology research,” they wrote.

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