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Pathogen disgust & GM-food and vaccine-risk perceptions ... a fragment

From something am working on ... stay tuned:

3.1. Preliminary findings

a. PDS and political outlooks. Commentators often report that disgust sensitives, including the type measured bythe “pathogen disgust scale” (PDS), are correlated with left-right political orientations (Terrizzi et al., 2013; but see Tybur et al. 2010). In this large, nationally diverse sample, however, the relationship between PDS scores and political conservativism was trivially small (0.09, p < 0.01)


b.  Vaccine and GM risk perceptions and political outlooks. In the popular media, both vaccine and GM risk perceptions are frequently depicted as associated with “liberal” outlooks (e.g., Shermer 2013). Empirical data do not support this view (e.g., Kahan 2015; Kahan 2016).  In this study, too, there was no meaningful correlation  (r = 0.00, p= 0.96) between GM risk perceptions and political outlooks. For vaccines, there were small to moderate correlations, but the direction was contrary to the popular-commentary position: right-leaning scores on the political outlook measure predicted both more concern over vaccine risk perceptions (ISRPM: 0.09 p < 0.01) and less support for mandatory vaccination (r = -0.24, p < 0.01). 

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Reader Comments (5)

So, these results all seem to be pointing counter to other published results, don't they? Any idea why the disagreement in results?

December 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hartshorn

@Ross-- I don't think there are too many results w/ which above is in conflict. The political alignment on vaccines & GM foods is "WEKS" result. The results on political orientation of disgust are in fact disputed & those who stress correlation usually are relying on really weak correlations like one highlighted here -- plus using invalid samples like M Turk & students

But stay tuned. The problem with "pathogen disgust" research, as I see it, is that is being used in designs that lack internal validity-- b/c they they look only for correlations the expect to see & not ones that would raise doubts about hypotheses

December 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Hi Dan,
You might also be interested in my recent paper with Josh Tybur looking at the relationship between PD and social/political attitudes internationally. We find that
1) there seems to be a much more consistent relationship between PD and traditionalism than intergroup dominance (SDO)
2) the PD-traditionalism relationship is small (around what you found here) but very consistent across countries.
3) consistent with past research there's a much stronger relationship between country-level pathogen stress and traditionalism.

If you're interested, the cite is:
Tybur, J. M., Inbar, Y., et al. (2016). Parasite stress and pathogen avoidance relate to distinct dimensions of political ideology across 30 nations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113, 12408-12413.

December 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYoel Inbar

@Yoel-- very interested, thanks!

I think you know too what the data i"m now referring to say! But what do you make of *this*?!

And does Tybur view the PNAS paper as consistent with Tybur, J.M., Merriman, L.A., Hooper, A.E., McDonald, M.M. & Navarrete, C.D. Extending the the behavioral immune system to political psychology: are political conservatism and disgust sensitivity really related? Evolutionary psychology, 8, 599-616 (2010)?

Previous research suggests that several individual and cultural level attitudes, cognitions, and societal structures may have evolved to mitigate the pathogen threats posed by intergroup interactions. It has been suggested that these anti-pathogen defenses are at the root of conservative political ideology. Here, we test a hypothesis that political conservatism functions as a pathogen-avoidance strategy. Across three studies, we consistently find no relationship between sensitivity to pathogen disgust and multiple measures of political conservatism. These results are contrasted with theoretical perspectives suggesting a relationship between conservatism and pathogen avoidance, and with previous findings of a relationship between conservatism and disgust sensitivity.

December 28, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

IMHO, going back to remind myself what the heck a “pathogen disgust scale” (PDS) might be, and re-reading the Tyber et al 2014 "Behavioral Immune System Methods: Surveying the Present to Shape the Future" paper seems to cite other references all of which must rely on a wide range of other culturally confounding variables in both the subjects and the researchers.

In reading: "“ For example, tactile cues to pathogens (e.g., touching something wet and viscous with your hand;
Oum, Lieberman, & Aylward, 2011) presumably leads to a stronger “pull away” response than, say, olfactory cues to pathogens. The precise coupling between different types of pathogen cues and their effects on attention, memory, and other systems is not yet clear. ", I don't think that any of that can be presumed or that there ought to even be assumed to exist a precise coupling of pathogen cues and their effects on human systems that could be defined in ways that define all but the most tightly designated cultural subsets.

Humans do base things on experience. That's the whole idea of science after all, "the evidence". But how does that play out in societies more at large? I am somehow reminded of a news story from earlier this week, regarding poor working conditions at a chicken farm. The janitorial staff was complaining about being redirected to working on the factory chicken cleaning line. Part of their argument appeared to be expressed so as to appeal to outsiders "How would you like us to be handling chickens after we clean the bathrooms?" But underlying that seemed to be a matter of professional identity. (We are janitorial specialists, we don't do chicken guts). As someone with a childhood history of asthma, I bet I'd test out as much more willing to handle something squishy than breath something noxious.

It seems to me that working out pathogen response, (focusing on the "Germs" of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel), would be helped by employing the services of a good cultural anthropologist. Or perhaps evolutionary microbiologist.

Lacking that expertise, but forging ahead anyway, (I did read Jared's book) I wonder if cultural origins of disease related outsider distrust is influenced by geography.

The spread of previously unknown diseases, notably smallpox, started in the Americas with the earliest Spanish contacts. This probably wiped out civilizations that never saw European originating explorers. Later, in the time it took Squanto to return to his village from time in England, his people had been largely wiped out. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in an area of vacant villages, which they raided for supplies. No germ free communication mechanisms existed to warn Pacific Coast Nations as to what they could anticipate. The epidemic that took place at about the time of the Revolutionary War is described in Pox Americana: I propose that the Americas were blindsided, without enough time or the right sort of mechanisms to develop cultural adaptations.

Looking at the Eurasian Continent, mixing was both possible and yet often difficult. Crossroads and river mouth trading centers were open. Over time that openness may have led to greater immunity, making openness possible without undue harm from incoming diseases. Hence fear of strangers may have been diminished.

The edges to Eurasia, the far east, notably Japan as well as Britain and Ireland, were both close enough to have had previous cultural bad experiences with outsiders and disease, and far enough away that such exposure was limited. And thus immunity was lower. Thus making contacts with outsiders more potentially harmful in ways that could be anticipated..

Thus I propose that the geography of disease barriers is behind the xenophobia of both the Japanese and the Scotch Irish. In this country, at least for a while the Scotch Irish settlers were fairly isolated in Appalachia. And also associated with right wing conservatism. Isolation itself is culturally narrowing. But what is cause and what is effect?

On the subject of chicken and the egg, If however, we are talking about Eew! Yuck! and Morally Repugnant!, as a subset of pathogen disgust, we might investigate the backyard chickens of Portlandia. Chickens only are good egg layers for a few years. After which point, the "logical" thing to do is to wring their necks, clean the carcass, and drop it in the stew pot. Very few Portlandians are up for this. Appalachians, however, much more likely to have no problems here.

I read through the reference given by Yoel Inbar above. My question regarding that has to do with the importance of cultural retention of attributes that had real benefits in the past. Pork, which was "unclean" in the Middle East due to trichinosis is one example.

But my pet peeve is hand sanitizer, especially in hospitals. In my recent experience, hospitals have been awash in a sea of hand sanitizer. Even though these locations are filled with professionally trained people who are quite familiar with modern microbiology. So one can have a logical conversation with such professionals regarding the lack of protection to the spread of MRSA, CDiff and such, and then watch them rub hand sanitizer on their hands as they leave the room.

A worse example, more one of short term profits and expediency, is given by our factory hog, chicken and dairy farms, where immunity to all known antibiotics is currently being developed.

Heavy education in microbes as pathogens, having a difficult time getting updated.

This then, ought to segue right into not only antibiotic and vaccine risk perceptions, but also why the heck we choose to focus on a few laggards to currently available older antibiotics and vaccines and not the lack of a sufficiently robust research and development pipeline for newly needed and updated ones?

December 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

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