The brain reveals its own political bias


Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2007
Coyote died for your sheep
The more we learn about how the brain works the more I wonder how much free will we have from a biological perspective....

But here is what doesn't make sense....I'm a liberal...but I don't function well in chaos....I must have defective genes :biggrin:

The brain reveals its own political bias

Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

Scientists at New York University and the University of California, Los Angeles, showed through a simple experiment to be reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments, whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found that those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results showed "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." Scientists instructed them to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

The participants were wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in their anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a correct response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

Researchers obtained the same results when they repeated the experiment in reverse, asking another set of participants to tap when they saw W.

Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research, at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, said results "provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity."

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU , cautioned that the study looked at a narrow slice of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better than another. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing, depending on the situation, he said.

Still, he acknowledged that a meeting of the minds between conservatives and liberals looks difficult, given the study results.

"Does this mean liberals and conservatives are never going to agree? Maybe it suggests one reason why they tend not to get along," Amodio said.
A pretty unremarkable study over all. We already know differences in how people perceive and react to the world (i.e., personality) play a big role in determining political affiliations.

Sulloway's interpretation of the results are shoddy, unprofessional, and borderline unethical. They certainly do not lend themselves to the conclusion he draws from them. Having corresponded with Amodio about the study (who is much more, ahem, conservative in interpreting the results), I can say he probably agrees with me in that regard.