Re: [OVC-discuss] 50/50 elections

From: Edward Cherlin <echerlin_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Nov 28 2008 - 13:37:19 CST

On Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 11:13 AM, Alan Dechert <dechert@gmail.com> wrote:
> David Brown wrote,
>>
>> I have heard that there are biological differences between the brains of
>> conservatives and liberals...
>>
> Do you have any sources on that?
> Alan D.

http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2008/02/liberal-mind-vs-conservative-mind-is-it.html

In 2003, John Jost, a psychologist at New York University, and
colleagues surveyed 88 studies, involving more than 20,000 people in
12 countries, that looked for a correlation between personality traits
and political orientation (American Psychologist, vol 61, p 651). Some
traits are obviously going to be linked to politics, such as
xenophobia being connected with the far right. However, Jost uncovered
many more intriguing connections. People who scored highly on a scale
measuring fear of death, for example, were almost four times more
likely to hold conservative views. Dogmatic types were also more
conservative, while those who expressed interest in new experiences
tended to be liberals. Jost's review also noted research showing that
conservatives prefer simple and unambiguous paintings, poems and
songs.

...A much stronger link exists between political orientation and
openness, which psychologists define as including traits such as an
ability to accept new ideas, a tolerance for ambiguity and an interest
in different cultures. When these traits are combined, people with
high openness scores turn out to be almost twice as likely to be
liberals.

Combine the genetic influences on personality with the political
tendencies of different personality types, and the idea that genetics
shapes political tendencies seems very plausible indeed. All of the
big five personality traits are highly heritable (Journal of Research
in Personality, vol 32, p 431), with several studies suggesting that
around half of the variation in openness scores is a result of genetic
differences. Some traits that are linked to openness, such as being
sociable, are also known to be influenced by the levels of
neurotransmitters in the brain. And levels of these chemicals are
controlled in part by genes. So while there isn't a gene for liking
hippies, there is probably a set of genes that influences openness,
which in turn may influence political orientation.
...
"Tasks that involve dealing with conflicting information, for example,
are known to activate an area of the brain known as the anterior
cingulate cortex (ACC). Since liberals are generally more open to
conflicting ideas, activity in this area of the brain would be
expected to differ between them and conservatives. According to a
study in Nature Neuroscience (vol 10, p 1246) that is exactly what a
study last September by NYU's David Amodio does show. His research
links that difference to brain activity. "Electrodes placed on
subjects' skulls revealed that liberals had greater ACC activity...
Liberals also had higher activity immediately after making a mistake,
and the greater the activity, the better their performance over many
rounds. The results, says Amodio, suggest that basic brain mechanisms,
such as those that control habit formation, may distinguish liberal
minds from conservative ones."

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Received on Sun Nov 30 23:17:20 2008

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