Intelligent Design

Media: Political orientation touted as brain-based

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In “Left brain, right brain: researchers link neurology to political orientation” Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen Postmedia News April 7, 2011) tells us,

The study, published in the online edition of Current Biology, found that people who identified themselves as liberal tended to have larger anterior cingulate cortexes (ACC), a region of the brain that monitors uncertainty and conflict.Meanwhile, those who identified themselves as conservative had larger amygdalas. Among other things, the almond-shaped amygdala processes emotions related to fear.

Researchers believe the physical differences reflect the nature of voters: that liberals tend to be more comfortable with uncertainty while conservatives are more sensitive to fear.

Observers have noted that Canada, mid-election, is currently a target for this sort of thing.

Those who read all the way down to the bottom will encounter the lines:

“It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” he said, warning more work must be done to understand how the regions interact with other parts of the brain.

Note: These results are at some odds with the findings in the last decade on the neuroplasticity of the brain. For a discussion of known drivers of voting patterns, go here.

Hat tip: Five Feet of Fury

3 Replies to “Media: Political orientation touted as brain-based

  1. 1
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Oh my!

    So since I’m conservative and have a sensitivity to fear (or is it that I fear sensitivity?), I can’t help thinking that in the near future we will have brain engineering in order to foster a more liberal (and less fearful) population – let’s shrink those amygdalas!

  2. 2
    Janice says:

    Writing on this story, John J. Ray of Dissecting Leftism says,

    There is little doubt that liberal and conservative brains do systematically differ. Liberals seem to have a bit missing where caution should be and an extra large bit where hatred resides. But proving that is another matter. The human brain is very complex and even particular parts of it seem to have many functions. The findings … do show that Left/Right brains differ but the detailed interpretation put on the results is just word-play. When does “fear” become “caution”, for instance.

    And the brain area said to drive “fear” is the amygdala. And associating the amygdala with “fear” is ludicrously simplistic. Other research has been interpreted as showing the same area to be associated with greater “sociability”, for instance. So it would be equally logical to say that conservatives are more sociable rather than more fearful.

    And the anterior cingulate cortex, which is said to be bigger in Leftists, is usually associated with emotion. So Leftists are more emotional! I won’t quarrel with that!

    The research … is interesting but hopelessly over-interpreted. All that the interpretations tell you is the politics of those who did the interpreting.

  3. 3
    Matteo says:

    Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

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