Neuroscience

This is your brain on neuroscience: Stop the misuse for political purposes

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Holly Bailey tells us, courtesy Yahoo News, (Apr 11, 11:41) “Will President Obama and the House GOP ever agree? Science suggests no”:

Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

“Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual’s political orientation,” lead researcher Ryota Kanai writes of the study in the latest issue of Current Biology. “Our study now links personality traits with specific brain structure.”

A caution is offered:

While the London study does find distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, its authors caution that more research needs to be done on the subject. One unknown is whether people are simply born with their political beliefs or if our brains adjust to life experiences–which is a possibility, Kanai writes.

Other sources account for voting patterns in terms of history, economics, and social circumstances, which could of course influence brain development.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

4 Replies to “This is your brain on neuroscience: Stop the misuse for political purposes

  1. 1
    Kyrilluk says:

    Another silly study.
    – The sample used is 96 students at one of the most prestigious University in the World. 55% were female. So hardly representative.
    – More over, a sample of 96 imply an error of around 10%. Are the difference in brain structure are different by more than 10%?

    But more importantly, a lot of studies shows a difference in brain structure between man and women. Funnily enough, the differences between the so called “conservative brain” and the “liberal brain” are identical to the difference between the “male brain” and the “female brain”. So what this study ACTUALLY measured: the correlation between sex and politics (men tending to be more conservative than women) or as the author pretend, the correlation between brain structure and politics.
    Men/Women are heavily influenced by their peers and their environment when it comes to politics. This has very little to do with the way their brains are structured.

  2. 2
    O'Leary says:

    Yes, silly, Kyrilluk, but many see it as “science.”

    Re influence, just one quick comment: It’s most often the case that peers are in the same social or economic boat, so the influence is easy and mutual.

  3. 3
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Here’s another angle:

    I wonder what the liberals were smoking that affected the growth of their anterior cingulate cortexes.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Hmmm, I’ll see your study and raise you three studies;

    Brain Differences Found Between Believers In God And Non-Believers
    Excerpt: Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to new University of Toronto research that shows distinct brain differences between believers and non-believers.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....160400.htm

    Look Who’s Irrational Now
    “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....54585.html

    Studies: Belief in God relieves depression – Sept. 2010
    Excerpt: The operative term here is “caring,” the researchers said. “The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement.” ,,,The researchers compared the levels of melancholy or hopelessness in 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression with their sense of “religious well-being.” They found participants who scored in the top third of a scale charting a sense of religious well-being were 75 percent more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression.

    “In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief,” said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values.

    “It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared,” she said.
    Data released last year by sociologists from the University of California at Berkeley, in fact, revealed that 93 percent of the nation believes in God, a finding that has remained unchanged since 1988.

    The Canadian researchers who found that belief in God lowers anxiety and stress also based their conclusions on measurements — monitoring the brain activities of believers and nonbelievers charged with some challenging tasks.

    “We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors,” said Michael Inzlicht, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who led the research.“ They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error,” he said.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com....._headlines

    When Atheists Are Angry at God – 2011
    Excerpt: I’ve never been angry at unicorns. It’s unlikely you’ve ever been angry at unicorns either.,, The one social group that takes exception to this rule is atheists. They claim to believe that God does not exist and yet, according to empirical studies, tend to be the people most angry at him.
    http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....gry-at-god

    ,,, But isn’t it just like atheists to get everything backwards?

    From Atheism to Theism In Reverse
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9C2E1MNU

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