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Gender and Physiological Effects in Connecting Disgust to Political Preferences


  • Amanda Balzer will share all data and coding schemes with those wishing to replicate the study. The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and John Hibbing and Kevin Smith for sharing their data and providing valuable feedback on this article. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation's Human and Social Dynamics Competition (SES-07211378 and BCS-0826828, John R. Hibbing Principal Investigator).

Direct correspondence to Amanda Balzer, 511 Oldfather Hall, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588 〈〉.



Sensitivity to disgust predicts social attitudes, but this relationship can shift depending on gender and whether response to disgust is measured through surveys or physiological tests. We are interested in exploring the relationship between gender, political preferences, and different measures of disgust.


We systematically evaluate these interrelationships by comparing self-reported disgust sensitivity and changes in skin conductance while viewing disgusting images, accounting for gender and attitudes toward gay marriage.


We find that although there is no physiological difference between genders, opponents of gay marriage conform to gender-role expectations in self-reports, with women reporting higher levels of disgust than males. For males, physiological response better predicts attitudes on gay marriage because there are physiological, but not self-reported, differences between supporters and opponents. Self-report and physiology both predict gay marriage attitudes for females.


Our findings suggest that combining traditional survey and physiological measures provides leverage in exploring questions related to social behaviors and their origins.