A new scientific study reveals that political orientation is related to differences in the way different brains process information.
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from “very liberal” to “very conservative.” Scientists instructed them to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.
M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.
The participants were wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in their anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a correct 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.
Researchers obtained the same results when they repeated the experiment in reverse, asking another set of participants to tap when they saw W.
Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research, at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, said results “provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity.”
Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow slice of human behavior and that 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.
We can conclude from this that conservatives tend to question established routine less than […]