Left-Wing Brains v. Right-Wing Brains

Liberalism and conservatism start in the brain:

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show 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 experiment is one that will be familiar to many people as one similar that was floating around teh internetz not long ago to measure internalized racism, in which images are presented for quick response on the keyboard. In this case, the letters M and W were presented, and participants were instructed to tap the keyboard only when one or the other appeared. The one that required tapping was presented more frequently, to dispose the participants toward tapping.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate 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.

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

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.
Interesting. Of course the real question—and always the best question and hardest to answer—is why. Are these differences wholly biological, wholly socialized, a combination thereof? My guess would be a biological predisposition that is either reinforced or undermined by individual socialization and will—which would also explain why there are diehard conservatives, diehard liberals, and lots of people in between.

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