Monday, July 26, 2010

Disgust and homosexuality

Here's a new article from Personality and Individual Differences entitled, "Disgust: A predictor of social conservatism and prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals" :
Disgust is a universal human emotion that evolved to protect individuals from ingesting harmful substances such as toxins and pathogens. Recent research suggests that disgust is a component of a “behavioral immune system” that encourages individuals to avoid people and situations that could potentially result in bodily contamination. The purpose of the current research was to explore the role of social conservatism in the link between disgust and prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuals. The results of a correlational study (Study 1) indicated that disgust sensitivity was positively correlated with socially conservative values. However, the relation was specific to conservative values regarding intergroup relations and potential contamination. In Study 2, disgust was experimentally manipulated. Inducing disgust resulted in increased prejudicial attitudes toward contact with homosexuals for conservative individuals and reduced prejudice for liberals. The results of these studies support the claim that disgust is part of a “behavioral immune system” that promotes socially conservative value systems and can lead to increased negative attitudes toward outgroups.

10 comments:

Underachiever said...

Steven Pinker wrote about how liberals and conservatives have different moral reasoning/rationalizing. He identified 5 realms of moral reasoning: fairness, harm, community, authority, and purity (which deals with sexual acts). Liberals place a lot of value on the first two categories while Conservatives tend to place more equal value on all five.

My explanation is that liberals don't mind gays as much because they identify hatred of gays as entering the harm realm. Because of a heightened disgust reflex, conservatives see it in terms of disgust and then rationalize it.

Here is the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

Anonymous said...

According to Ewald, the two primary ways pathogens are passed are through the air and through sexual contact.

Instinct counts for something--gotta believe not only STD rates but also rates of other pathogens must be lower in conservatives than for libs.

Disgust is good!

Underachiever said...

Anon,

You're right. "Instinct counts for something" except when it doesn't. Your STD argument is easily countered. If you won't want to take a chance catching them, don't have sex before marriage and marry a virgin.

Also, virology will probably increase enough so that soon this argument won't matter. In either case, lesbians have a lower rate of STDs

I for one am glad that people can consciously override their instincts. Anyone who has ever had a surgery should be glad that doctors can overcome their instinctual revulsion towards blood.

Underachiever said...

My bad. Lesbians don't have lower rates of STDs, but the point remains that the rational for disliking gays is rapidly collapsing.

Anonymous said...

"Your STD argument is easily countered. If you won't want to take a chance catching them, don't have sex before marriage and marry a virgin."


No, it's not. Hon, you are talking to a woman who was a virgin when she married...and she married a virgin. Yep. Plus, as we are both in our early 60s, we missed a lot of what is out there now...herpes, for example. No doubt, however, that we have traded pathogens. Everybody does.

However, my point was that it's not just the usual suspects of what have come to be called STDs that wind up causing chronic disease--my point was that germ theory tells us that almost all disease is the result of pathogenic infections, most of them chronic, most of them transmitted through the respiratory system or through sexual contact--and some kinds of sexual contact are much riskier than others , and promiscuity increases the probability of stronger and nastier mutations of the bugs.

So, while none of us escapes pathogens, and while all of us will die eventually from them (unless an accident takes us or foul play takes us first!), it's still true that the more sexual partners one has and the more one engages in certain practices, the more dangerously one is living.
HIV was, according to evolutionary biologists, probably around in a gentler form in Africa for a long, long while. Forms of it evolved to virulence when the virus didn't need to stay that way in order to survive. After all, more frequent sexual contacts enabled it to survive in others. It could be just as virulent as it wanted since the time that elapsed from initial infection to the symptoms' stage was so prolonged that it managed to get to myriads of other hosts all the while escaping detection by all.

"Also, virology will probably increase enough so that soon this argument won't matter. In either case, lesbians have a lower rate of STDs"

No, see above. Just as we may be given immunity to one bug by a vaccine or treated with an antibiotic (oh, consider how MRSA has outevolved us and our antibiotics, another bug mutates to virulence. You see, it's the situations we humans give those bugs that we need to concern ourselves with--they can be made to evolve to a less dangerous form if we avoid certain behaviors. You do know that though, right?

Lesbians? Yes, they do have fewer STDs. Fewer sexual contacts. Different anatomical contacts.


I repeat, though: disgust is good --a sign of evolutionary fitness.


Oh, and most people I know are capable of separating their feelings of disgust for something private one may do from their feelings for that person.

One last note, lest you think I don't point the finger at myself --I often feel disgust for the person I once was, a lib. I have to own up to the fact that part of the mess we find ourselves in, I helped create.

I am forever ashamed, but I hope to make it up in some way to the coming generations.

Anonymous said...

"Your STD argument is easily countered. If you won't want to take a chance catching them, don't have sex before marriage and marry a virgin."


No, it's not. Hon, you are talking to a woman who was a virgin when she married...and she married a virgin. Yep. Plus, as we are both in our early 60s, we missed a lot of what is out there now...herpes, for example. No doubt, however, that we have traded pathogens. Everybody does.

However, my point was that it's not just the usual suspects of what have come to be called STDs that wind up causing chronic disease--my point was that germ theory tells us that almost all disease is the result of pathogenic infections, most of them chronic, most of them transmitted through the respiratory system or through sexual contact--and some kinds of sexual contact are much riskier than others , and promiscuity increases the probability of stronger and nastier mutations of the bugs.

So, while none of us escapes pathogens, and while all of us will die eventually from them (unless an accident takes us or foul play takes us first!), it's still true that the more sexual partners one has and the more one engages in certain practices, the more dangerously one is living.
HIV was, according to evolutionary biologists, probably around in a gentler form in Africa for a long, long while. Forms of it evolved to virulence when the virus didn't need to stay that way in order to survive. After all, more frequent sexual contacts enabled it to survive in others. It could be just as virulent as it wanted since the time that elapsed from initial infection to the symptoms' stage was so prolonged that it managed to get to myriads of other hosts all the while escaping detection by all.

"Also, virology will probably increase enough so that soon this argument won't matter. In either case, lesbians have a lower rate of STDs"

No, see above. Just as we may be given immunity to one bug by a vaccine or treated with an antibiotic (oh, consider how MRSA has outevolved us and our antibiotics, another bug mutates to virulence. You see, it's the situations we humans give those bugs that we need to concern ourselves with--they can be made to evolve to a less dangerous form if we avoid certain behaviors. You do know that though, right?

Lesbians? Yes, they do have fewer STDs. Fewer sexual contacts. Different anatomical contacts.


I repeat, though: disgust is good --a sign of evolutionary fitness.


Oh, and most people I know are capable of separating their feelings of disgust for something private one may do from their feelings for that person.

One last note, lest you think I don't point the finger at myself --I often feel disgust for the person I once was, a lib. I have to own up to the fact that part of the mess we find ourselves in, I helped create.

I am forever ashamed, but I hope to make it up in some way to the coming generations.

Anonymous said...

"Your STD argument is easily countered. If you won't want to take a chance catching them, don't have sex before marriage and marry a virgin."


No, it's not. Hon, you are talking to a woman who was a virgin when she married...and she married a virgin. Yep. Plus, as we are both in our early 60s, we missed a lot of what is out there now...herpes, for example. No doubt, however, that we have traded pathogens. Everybody does.

However, my point was that it's not just the usual suspects of what have come to be called STDs that wind up causing chronic disease--my point was that germ theory tells us that almost all disease is the result of pathogenic infections, most of them chronic, most of them transmitted through the respiratory system or through sexual contact--and some kinds of sexual contact are much riskier than others , and promiscuity increases the probability of stronger and nastier mutations of the bugs.

So, while none of us escapes pathogens, and while all of us will die eventually from them (unless an accident takes us or foul play takes us first!), it's still true that the more sexual partners one has and the more one engages in certain practices, the more dangerously one is living.
HIV was, according to evolutionary biologists, probably around in a gentler form in Africa for a long, long while. Forms of it evolved to virulence when the virus didn't need to stay that way in order to survive. After all, more frequent sexual contacts enabled it to survive in others. It could be just as virulent as it wanted since the time that elapsed from initial infection to the symptoms' stage was so prolonged that it managed to get to myriads of other hosts all the while escaping detection by all.

"Also, virology will probably increase enough so that soon this argument won't matter. In either case, lesbians have a lower rate of STDs"

No, see above. Just as we may be given immunity to one bug by a vaccine or treated with an antibiotic (oh, consider how MRSA has outevolved us and our antibiotics, another bug mutates to virulence. You see, it's the situations we humans give those bugs that we need to concern ourselves with--they can be made to evolve to a less dangerous form if we avoid certain behaviors. You do know that though, right?

Lesbians? Yes, they do have fewer STDs. Fewer sexual contacts. Different anatomical contacts.


I repeat, though: disgust is good --a sign of evolutionary fitness.


Oh, and most people I know are capable of separating their feelings of disgust for something private one may do from their feelings for that person.

One last note, lest you think I don't point the finger at myself --I often feel disgust for the person I once was, a lib. I have to own up to the fact that part of the mess we find ourselves in, I helped create.

I am forever ashamed, but I hope to make it up in some way to the coming generations.

Underachiever said...

Anon,

Your discussion about pathogens mutating is interesting. It reminds me of a discussion I heard about pathogens evolving in advanced South American countries to be less harmful. I will have to look into Ewald.

In regards to your main point, I think that disgust is sometimes appropriate, but sometimes not. When taking a dosage of medicine, it is inappropriate. When eating broccoli, it is inappropriate. When a surgeon becomes phobic of blood, it is inappropriate. We should not rely on mechanisms of disgust, that evolved for radically different environments, in cases where conscious evidence suggests we do something otherwise. Disgust must be balanced against the moral categories of harm and fairness. For instance, is it fair to show disgust for homosexuals for a preference which only harms people who have sex with them? Or is it better to be nice to them, encourage them to all come out of the closet, and then they will overwhelmingly have sex with each other?

Your pathogen argument is valid; however, it is quickly losing its importance. I think that the vast majority of people are radically underestimating how quickly technology will increase. I would not be surprised if it is possible in my lifetime to give a blood sample to a machine, have it identify every virus you have, and design molecules to fix them all.

If I thought that technology would not increase rapidly, I would: be concerned about the secularism of society, strongly censure non-monogamous couples, be extremely worried about immigration, and be concerned about generations down the road. However, since I am optimistic about future technology, I am less concerned about problems which are slow to build up.

In the meantime, I would suggest that people only have safe sex outside of marriage and look after their health.

Also, I was under the impression that the effects of aging were a leading cause of death although I can see how pathogens could speed up some of the causes of aging.

On a last note, congratulations on your long-lasting marriage.

Anonymous said...

"I will have to look into Ewald."

Please do. You'll find his insights applying evolutionary principles are finally driving research.(Witness all the research which now is concentrated on linking pathogens to cancers). Unfortunately, the last people to apply such insights are public health officials.

"For instance, is it fair to show disgust for homosexuals for a preference which only harms people who have sex with them? Or is it better to be nice to them,"

No, I don't think it's good "to show disgust for homosexuals." In fact, I don't "show" disgust. If and when I start thinking about their sexual practices, I "feel" disgust (it's hard-wired) but I don't "show" that disgust. There is a difference.

I lost a friend and colleague to AIDS in the early 90s. He and more than one of his partners contracted HIV, I believe, before the safe sex campaigns began, but it is true that he and they had been quite promiscuous in the decade previous to research into the virus. Inroads have been made into modifying gay men's behaviors, but still we see the emergence of a new, antibiotic resistant staph bug in gay communities in NYC, for example. Human nature being what it is, and the male sex drive being what it is, it's hard to change behaviors, especially when people think that danger has lessened.

"I think that the vast majority of people are radically underestimating how quickly technology will increase. I would not be surprised if it is possible in my lifetime to give a blood sample to a machine, have it identify every virus you have, and design molecules to fix them all."

While I have the utmost respect for technology, I also have a greater respect for natural selection/evolution. Bugs survive because they can evolve right along with us and in the case of many, they out-evolve us, every easily. Viruses are especially problematic. The technology you describe will not make us immortal. (Nor do I think you will see such a tech as you describe in your lifetime).

"Also, I was under the impression that the effects of aging were a leading cause of death although I can see how pathogens could speed up some of the causes of aging."

This reminds me that you might also be interested in Ewald's comments on aging and its relation to pathogens.

"On a last note, congratulations on your long-lasting marriage."

Why, thank you. I recommend monogamy highly. Of course, it helps to have chosen wisely the first time around. LOL.

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