28 February 2018
Authoritarianism has resurfaced as a research topic in political psychology, as it appears relevant to explain current political trends. Authoritarian attitudes have been consistently linked to feelings of disgust, an emotion that is thought to have evolved to protect the organism from contamination. We hypothesized that body odour disgust sensitivity (BODS) might be associated with authoritarianism, as chemo-signalling is a primitive system for regulating interpersonal contact and disease avoidance, which are key features also in authoritarianism. We used well-validated scales for measuring BODS, authoritarianism and related constructs. Across two studies, we found that BODS is positively related to authoritarianism. In a third study, we showed a positive association between BODS scores and support for Donald Trump, who, at the time of data collection, was a presidential candidate with an agenda described as resonating with authoritarian attitudes. Authoritarianism fully explained the positive association between BODS and support for Donald Trump. Our findings highlight body odour disgust as a new and promising domain in political psychology research. Authoritarianism and BODS might be part of the same disease avoidance framework, and our results contribute to the growing evidence that contemporary social attitudes might be rooted in basic sensory functions.