Debates, especially those that enter the political domain, often behave like a whirlpool; the longer they continue, the more people and arguments they manage to suck in. These debates sometimes get heated and end with personal insults, such as “Your political views are as irrelevant as the ‘ay’ in Okay”, or even worse, “your politics stink!”
Wait just a minute though… How can someone’s politics stink?
The idea sounds completely absurd, but equally fascinating at the same time. Do your ideologies, particularly your political views and opinions, give you a specific body odor? In other words, your political opinions, and effectively your own body, may seem to stink to those people who don’t share your beliefs.
It’s Actually Possible
A new study suggests that this is actually possible. Pete Hatemi, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University, claims that people feel comparatively more attracted to those who share their political beliefs and allegiances. “There is something about someone who is politically similar to you that is being put out there and you’re receiving that, and that might just slightly change your position. It might make you a little more interested. It might make you just interested enough to stick around,” he explains.
Political Beliefs Paving the Way for Partnerships
People tend to choose partners with whom they share certain similarities; this may be the reason why it’s not uncommon to find couples with similar political preferences. A different domain of research points out that people’s basic beliefs in ideas and principles does have a biological component. For instance, research based on surveys and tests says that conservative individuals have ‘stronger disgust reactions’ than liberals.
Political beliefs, which are often deeply enmeshed in one’s personality and basic beliefs, can manifest in a biological way; in this case, that happens to be body odor.
A Study of Political Beliefs
To find out more about this relationship, Hatemi and his team selected 146 volunteers, aged 18-40, and asked them about their political beliefs. 21 of these volunteers, who were either strongly conservative or strongly liberal, were instructed to wear gauze pads taped under their armpits for 24 hours. To make sure that the odor was not ‘contaminated’, these people were asked not to take a shower or wear perfume! Just imagine the smell after a day…. oh, the things we do for science!
The remaining 125 volunteers were asked to sniff these pads after the 24-hour period and guess the political ideologies of the people to which the pads belonged.
Results of the Study
You may be inclined to think that those 125 people correctly guessed the political ideologies of the people whose pads they sniffed. However, let me tell you, the results were not as clear as the researchers had hoped. People were unable to correctly guess whether they were taking a whiff from a Conservative or a Liberal.
However, one rather interesting observation was made. Conservatives claimed to like the smell of certain pads, and guess whose pads those were? Yes, Conservatives! A similar observation was made for Liberals. In other words, Conservatives liked the smell of Conservatives and rated the smell of Liberals as neutral. Liberals reported the same thing when sniffing conservative pads.
Not a Perfect Science
This was a truly amazing study to test the relationship between political ideologies and biological traits (in this case, smell), but it is in no way an absolute proof of the phenomenon. “It’s not necessarily true that it’s operating overwhelmingly on people,” said Hatemi. He said that if a shower could erase the smell, then the conclusions become too unlikely to be of much significance.
However, this does show that a connection (even just a little one) exists between a person’s ideologies and political beliefs and their smell. The study does not present much concrete proof, but it definitely does one thing…. the phrase ‘your political view stinks!’ no longer seems like such a crazy reply!