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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Brain Study: Liberals and Conservatives Differ

Some of you might be quite closed-minded about this:

Brain study finds political divide, by 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 UCLA showed through a simple experiment to be reported Monday 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 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. ...

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

Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrates a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, was accused of being 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.

"There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science," said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals.

Lead author David Amodio ... of ... New York University cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and 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.

Political orientation, he noted, occurs along a spectrum, and positions on specific issues, such as taxes, are influenced by many factors, including education and wealth. Some liberals oppose higher taxes...

Still, he acknowledged that a meeting of the minds between conservatives and liberals looked 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.

Might this also explain why college faculty tend to be Democrats?

    Posted by on Sunday, September 9, 2007 at 02:07 PM in Economics, Politics, Science | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (79)

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