Researchers found that sense of smell can influence one’s political attitudes. A team at Stockholm University in Sweden claim that people who are disgusted by body odors like sweat or urine, tend to support a despotic leader. This particular link, they theorize, might come from a deep-seated instinct to avoid infectious diseases.
“There was a solid connection between how strongly someone was disgusted by smells and their desire to have a dictator-like leader,” said study author, Jonas Olofsson.
Researchers had a theory that there would be a correlation between feelings of disgust and how a person would want society to be organized. On this basis, Olofsson and his team believed that people with a strong instinct to distance themselves from unpleasant odors would also prefer a society where groups are kept separate.
To reach this conclusion, Olofsson and his team conducted an online survey which was sent to various countries including the United States. American respondents were asked a series of questions that ranged from smell to which candidate they supported in the 2016 presidential election.
The researchers revealed that those who were disgusted by odors such as urine and sweat were likelier to vote for Donald Trump. According to Olofsson, people who were easily disgusted by these kinds of smells tended to steer towards authoritarian political leaders. Olofsson thought that this link was interesting, considering how Trump describes various groups of people as disgusting, including women, or how immigrants spread disease.
“It fits with our hypothesis that his supporters would be more easily disgusted themselves,” said Olofsson.
While the results would suggest that authoritarian political views are innate and not subject to change, Olofsson believes that political preferences can be changed by creating contact between groups.
The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science, journal.
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