A logical calculus of vomit stink, gay marriage, and political leaning

The logic and scope of this new study perhaps offer lessons for researchers in every field:

Disgust and the Politics of Sex: Exposure to a Disgusting Odorant Increases Politically Conservative Views on Sex and Decreases Support for Gay Marriage,” Thomas G. Adams, Patrick A. Stewart [pictured here], John C. Blanchar, PLoS ONE, 9(5), May 5, 2014, e95572. (Thanks to investigator Marianne Lower for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Arkansas, explain:

Patrick_Stewart“[We] expected the foul disgust odorant, in this case butyric acid, which smells like vomit, to robustly engage the emotion of disgust and decrease approval of gay marriage….

“Participants were assigned to either a disgust odor condition or a control (no odor) condition. Ten minutes prior to participant arrival, an experimenter placed four drops of 99% butyric acid [20], [21] on two small cotton pads and hid these pads at the front and back of the room. Pads were replaced and the room aerated between experimental groups. Immediately upon entering the experimental room, all participants completed disgust ratings and socio-political opinion questions….

“The finding that belief in Biblical truth was greater among participants in the disgust odor condition was unexpected but is nonetheless consistent with previous work showing a relation between disgust and scrupulosity or being careful to avoid doing wrong….

“Odor induced conservative shifts concerning gay marriage were particularly robust.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


BONUS (possibly related, in some way): Aroxa’s butyric acid training sheets and capsules for wine experts-to-be, “Butyric, rancid, like baby vomit”:


BONUS: A little about butyric acid on the cheap: