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Your Brain’s Reaction to Gross Stuff Predicts How You Vote

How "being disgusted by maggots" and "voting Tory" might be linked.

Your brain's response to this image could betray your political allegiance (Photo by Flickr user ​rjp)

Let's stop quick and think about some gross stuff. Organs, you know. Buckets full of maggots. Olives. Intimately holding a glass jar with the most tender part of your butthole. Anything sharp coming anywhere near your gums. Impacted verrucae. Olives.

Now think about David Cameron licking his lips, or Nick Clegg's face folding sadly while he wears his "This Is What A Feminist Looks Like" T-shirt, or Ed Miliband honking at a homeless woman, or Nigel Farage holding up a warm pint of ale, or one of the Green ones, doing something green. Guess what: your brain is doing some extremely electric shit right now. Because, according to ​scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, there's a strong link between how your brain reacts to photos of gross stuff and your political beliefs.


Researchers showed participants a load of pictures of maggots, mutilated carcasses and (possibly worst of all) a sink full of that sort of post-making-dinner collection of egg bits, anaemic spaghetti strands, peas and carrot peelings. Then they showed them pictures of babies and pleasant landscapes, just to balance things out, and took fMRI scans all the while. Finally, they gave each of the 83 men and women a survey asking them their attitudes towards school prayer, gun control, immigration and gay marriage. This is what science is.

What they found was kind of cool and weird: by analysing the resulting brain scans and comparing them to the surveys, researchers were able to predict a person's political leaning with 95 percent accuracy based on how their brain flashed when they looked at gross stuff. "Remarkably, we found that the brain's response to a single disgusting image was enough to predict an individual's political ideology," said Virginia Tech psychology professor Read Montague.

In case you have an fMRI scanner at home and want to try this out, you should know that conservatives tended to be those who were more disgusted by disgusting images than liberals.

A sink. Your brain is going wild right now, looking at this (Photo by Alan Cleaver)

Putting aside the fact that, with enough monkeys and typewriters and fMRI scans of brains, you can probably prove anything - are people who eat hot chips more racist than those eating cold ones? LET'S FIND OUT WITH THIS DEEP FRYER fMRI SCANNER AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF MARMALADE DOLLS - the study does prove, at least, that our brains are always and constantly broadcasting intimate personal details about ourselves through a series of electric pulses and surges of bloodflow, which is sort of score one for the tinfoil hat believers.


But it also indicates there's something more hard-wired and inherent to our political beliefs than you might expect. With political researcher Joe Twyman telling VICE this week that  ​political beliefs and sexual pecadilloes are all tied up (UKIP = dildoes, for example), maybe there's something to the fact that our neural activity and political ideologies so consistently overlap.

More stuff like this:

Photos of the Bathrooms and Kitchens of America's Bachelors

​The Gross Jar

​Do Your Sexual Fantasies Affect the Way You Vote?