Of course, it’s something many of us have suspected all along, but a new study published yesterday in Current Biology reveals that the differences in our political views are tied to differences in brain structure.
The next time you look at a Republican and wonder in astonishment at how small-minded, unscientific, inflexible and sometimes scarily racist their belief systems often are, well, wonder no more: They can’t help themselves…!
And the way you wince at them? It goes both ways, mate. Might be hard-coded into your gray matter as well. No wonder Conservatives find Liberals so infuriatingly condescending…
From Science Daily:
Individuals who call themselves liberal tend to have larger anterior cingulate cortexes, while those who call themselves conservative have larger amygdalas. Based on what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat, the researchers say.
“Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual’s political orientation,” said Ryota Kanai of the University College London. “Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure.”
Kanai said his study was prompted by reports from others showing greater anterior cingulate cortex response to conflicting information among liberals. “That was the first neuroscientific evidence for biological differences between liberals and conservatives,” he explained.
There had also been many prior psychological reports showing that conservatives are more sensitive to threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty, while liberals tend to be more open to new experiences. Kanai’s team suspected that such fundamental differences in personality might show up in the brain.
And, indeed, that’s exactly what they found. Kanai says they can’t yet say for sure which came first. It’s possible that brain structure isn’t set in early life, but rather can be shaped over time by our experiences. And, of course, some people have been known to change their views over the course of a lifetime.
Here’s more on this from TIME’s blog:
This is not the first attempt to locate the biological roots of party affiliation. In an October 2010 study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University identified a “liberal gene” — a variant called DRD4-7R, which affects the neurotransmitter dopamine — that has been linked with a personality type driven to seek out new experiences.
Another study from the University of Nebraska found that liberals and conservatives had different reactions to “gaze cues” — whether they tended to look in the same direction as a face on their computer screen. Liberals were more likely than conservatives to follow another person’s gaze, suggesting that people who lean right value autonomy more; alternative explanations suggest that liberals might be more empathetic, or that conservatives are less trusting of others.
The thing this study doesn’t explain is why progressive women are so much hotter than Republican women!
Another explanation for Tea baggers?