Monday, August 18, 2014

Discuss Disgust Conservatively & Liberally

Political scientists at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Rice University say that liberals tend to be physiologically different from conservatives, and that the differences influence what the people will purchase at retail.
     A primary distinction between the two orientations is in the frequency, nature, and intensity of physiological signs of disgust. Prior research had found that the higher a consumer’s identification with politically conservative values, the higher the probability of that consumer buying lots of cleaning supplies, laundry baskets, and desk organizers for use in the household. In another set of experiments, political conservatives spent more time than political liberals fixating on depictions of vomit. This suggests the conservatives would be more receptive to items which head off the disgust.
     Conservatives have a sharper sensitivity to all sorts of negative stimuli. Depictions of house fires and dangerous animals also drew prolonged attention. Facial expressions interpreted as surprise by political liberals were more often interpreted as threat by political conservatives.
     Some research finds that the brain structures of the two orientations differ: Liberals have relatively more gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain associated with impulse control, while conservatives have relatively more gray matter in the amygdala, which is associated with intense emotional experiences.
     These are all overall tendencies, not true of every individual consumer. Further, the Nebraska/Rice researchers acknowledge that physiological predispositions, built into a consumer’s DNA, aren’t the whole tale. The situation matters, too. Voters are somewhat more likely to express disgust with politically conservative candidates and issues when the polling place is a school than when it’s a church. In the retail store realm, shoppers sitting on a hard-surface chair are quicker to be repelled by novel brands and products than when sitting on a soft chair.
     Still, discussing with your shoppers their liberal-conservative orientations could help guide your selection of merchandise to stock and your selling points. Or you could use market research data. University of Michigan, New York University, and Turkey’s Özyeğin University researchers analyzed purchases over a six-year period in 1,860 supermarkets across 416 U.S. counties. Survey data on voting patterns and religiosity for each county were used to calculate what the researchers identified as “conservatism.”
     The resulting advice from the researchers: If many of your shoppers identify themselves as religious and say they vote Republican, emphasize national brands over store brands in your merchandising and hesitate stocking recently-released products.

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