Thinking as a Hobby

Get Email Updates
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

3478346 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

Liberal and Conservative Brains
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (3)

This is interesting, but as with anything cognitive, you have to be careful interpreting data and overgeneralizing, or assigning causality incorrectly.

Liberals and conservatives use a key part of the brain differently when confronted with snap decisions that involve overriding a habit, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

They had 43 college student self-describe along the liberal/conservative continuum. Then they had them do a task in which they had to press a button if they saw an "M", and not press it if they say a "W". The letters were flashed very rapidly. During the task, they measured activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is implicated in decision making and conflict monitoring.

There was apparently a statistical difference in the activity in this brain region between self-described liberals and conservatives, with the region being more activated on average in self-described liberals. The liberals were also more accurate on average.

It's interesting that they found a difference, but again, you have to be careful interpreting this data, and you have to put forth a reasonable model of why it occurs. This doesn't stop media outlets from grabbing it and running with it, though.

Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.

Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a "flip-flopper" for changing his mind about the conflict.

Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

Ummm...okay. I'm a bit confused about something, though. The task involved correctly inhibiting a particular motor response. Wouldn't we expect the opposite results? Wouldn't we expect liberals to display activity demonstrating less conflict, if they are supposed to be more open to new ideas? Wouldn't someone who is less rigid in their thinking be more prone to allow for mistakes?

That's the problem with studies of this sort, that look at activity in a particular part of the brain whose function is poorly understood at best. Either side of the political spectrum could point to it to validate their views of the opposing party. Without a substantive understanding of exactly what's going on, it's silly to extrapolate very far at all.

Besides, how would libertarians do?

Read/Post Comments (3)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.