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The neuroanatomy/ideology connection

Tucker

Lion Rampant
Interestingly, the brains of liberal and conservative Homo sapiens aren't shaped exactly the same. A cross-study of brain structure and ideology, initially undertaken as a lark on a BBC Radio programme, grew into a serious attempt by University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience to find out whether or not we humans are predisposed, or 'hard-wired', from birth to follow a certain political thinking. The evidence is in... and the distinction is very striking.

Let's keep in mind, however, that none of this speaks to a person's intelligence or the validity of his or her beliefs. Studies do not find that smarter people congregate toward one end or the other of the political spectrum. With that in mind, let's walk through:


The Science



Advanced brain scans were taken of 90 medical volunteers, all of whom were students attending UCL. Separate measurements were made of the various structures that make up the brain. Subjects were also given questionnaires to fill out regarding their political persuasions. The two sets of data were then correlated.


The Conclusion

Subjects identifying as conservative were consistently found to have appreciable relative enlargement in the area of the right amygdala. This most ancient and primitive part of the brain, common to all vertebrates which are as advanced as reptiles (hence the structure's informal name 'lizard brain'), is largely responsible for strong emotions such as fear and with the semi-autonomic 'fight or flight' response. One analogy I've heard is that the amygdala is a brain's "panic button."

Self-described liberals had smaller amygdalas but their profiles showed a bigger anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Rational cognitive functions such as reward anticipation, decision-making and empathy take place in this area.

Note that such a study doesn't determine cause and effect, only whether or not a correlation exists. With a sample of ninety volunteers, it is mathematically conceivable, though extremely unlikely, that the differences seen were merely coincidental. The further question of people who switch sides, as both of my parents did from Republican to Democrat, is not addressed. Professor Geraint Rees, who oversaw University College London's study, summed: "It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes."

Thoughts, counterarguments, animalistic knee-jerk reactions? :lol:


For further information, I would recommend the following links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIHRGUMr3Ak
(plain-English breakdown)


Brain-study-reveals-right-wing-conservatives-larger-primitive-amygdala.html

(UK's Daily News, unbiased and highly trusted news source)


And of course, there's always Google. ;)
 
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oxyMORON

A Darker Knight
Just the tendencies alone are hilarious enough. :lol:

This would explain why people are so die-hard in their beliefs. It's literally a part of them. It would technically be ok to take things personally.
 

shelgarr

Registered Member
Various societal extremes scare the shit out of me. I gravitated to traditional ideals from a very early age. I also have elements of me very opposed to authority. I apply these hardwired tendencies to my political views that most support my preferences.
 

Tucker

Lion Rampant
Various societal extremes scare the shit out of me. I gravitated to traditional ideals from a very early age. I also have elements of me very opposed to authority. I apply these hardwired tendencies to my political views that most support my preferences.
I'll buy that; it sounds like a pretty rational approach.


EDIT NOTE: Links to further information on the study have been added to OP
 

Hiei

The Hierophant
That's an interesting study. I wonder if the results were in any altered by the individuals up bringing. What I mean to say is, I wonder if conservatives, just by virtue of being conservatives and having a larger amygdala, are raised using that part of their brain more and vice versa. Alternately, is that something that's inherited?


The study does reveal some pretty funny results, though.
 
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