Ever considered sticking a pin into a child’s hand? How about kicking a dog in the head, hard? What about undergoing plastic surgery to add a two inch tail to the end of your spine?
Surprising as it may seem, your answers to these questions may throw some light on your political loyalties and affiliations. Recent research from the US has produced surprising data about differing attitudes towards social taboos across the political spectrum. The authors include Jonathan Haidt, whose thoughts on the moral and political choices facing Barack Obama are featured in this month’s edition of Prospect in an essay that is free to read online.
According to the study (pdf), published this Spring in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, conservatives are likely to feel more strongly about social taboos revolving around purity, authority and ingroup loyalty, while liberals feel a stronger sense of obligation around issues of harm to animals and other people. Libertarians, those rootless individualists, scored lower in every moral category.