Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I thought this was interesting. :P
"We all know that people at opposite ends of the political spectrum often really can't see eye to eye. Now, a new report published online on April 7th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveals that those differences in political orientation are tied to differences in the very structures of our brains.
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.
It's also true that our political persuasions can fall into many more categories than liberal and conservative. "In principle, our research method can be applied to find brain structure differences in political dimensions other than the simplistic left- versus right-wingers," Kanai said. Perhaps differences in the brain explain why some people really have no interest in politics at all or why some people line up for Macs while others stick with their PCs. All of these tendencies may be related in interesting ways to the peculiarities of our personalities and in turn to the way our brains are put together.
Still, Kanai cautioned against taking the findings too far, citing many uncertainties about how the correlations they see come about.
"It's very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions," he said. "More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.""
I am very skeptical of all that essentialistic discourse. First of all, we know too little of direct causality between thinking and neuronal physiological. How is the semantic network directly and differentially related to the synaptic network?
what sort of types of catecholamines released in the synaptic membrane can be reponsible for the difference between me thinking about my dog or queen Nefertiti?
and careful, by unreflected extension we are back to racial differences in cognition, etc... all that old trash we left behing 60 years ago. A not so long ago we had a revival of that sort of interpretative weltanshaung with that "Bell curve" study of that conservative social scientist Murray in the US on "intelligence" and ethnicity.
I knew a dude his grandfather was professor of the Institute of racial biology in Lund, south of Sweden during the 20ies.
Looks like this will only get more interesting with time.
Thanks for posting, Dawid!
if canadians generally vote in a more liberal manner than americans, does this mean that we will, in general, have smaller amygdalas? and perhaps that we suffer from amygdala envy?
to reduce politics to hardwire brain systems is too easy methinks. And of course easy answers are always tempting für Kennilinguists. Besides from the Danger of getting into "Alpha Beta Gamma" hierarchies like in Brave New World, studies like the above and oversimplifications of it tend to give way to political apathy. Like in, how much change in terms of voter polls can you expect when political attitudes are hardwired in to the brain? All you need to do is to find out which type of brains are in the majority and then design your campaign to fit the scheme. Democracy Goodbye.
In the old times there used to be randomly chosen represantatives to do the government job. this cannot be worse than our present system. xo
is political correctness a good reason not to pursue some hotbutton topic, as in for example racial differneces?
i have for the last 20 years thought that we should not pursue such questions, but i have recently changed my stance somewhat. i now think that there may be questions that could be pursued. however, the problem is that research of this type is often used for dickhead (racist) intents and purposes which i am not comfortable with. so my stance now is more pragmatic. sure there may be differences but people are generally still too immature to deal with the facts in an intelligent and impartial manner. so responsible researchers should still stay away from such hot button topics.
but why would one want to study them anyway? or why would someone find them so interesing?
i was watching a cool doc the other day called defamation. it talks about how claims of antisemitism in the states are often rather inflated. it goes on to suggest that one of the functions of the antidefamation league is to deflect criticisms of zionism by interpreting them as instances of anitsemitism. in other words, the adf is a bit of a self-propagating racket with ties to lobbying.
this is an interesing theory that i think probably holds some water. but i get uncomfortable when some dickhead comes along and uses this theory for his own purposes, namely for a subtle, non explicit or indirect form of jew bashing. in other words i really have to wonder about the intent behind the use of this quite interesting documentary by people who are not directly related to the issues involved (ie, by non-jews). i have to wonder, in other words, why this particular documentary is SO interesting to some people, even though they are not explicitly "jew bashing."
in other words, it's an interesting theory, but it's sometimes just a little TOO interesting to some people for comfort.