Are Your Political Beliefs Hardwired? | Innovations
Right brain, left brain
The latest research came out last week, a study at the University of South Carolina that concluded that the brains of self-identified Democrats and Republicans aren’t hard-wired the same.
Specifically, the scientists found more neural activity in areas of the brain believed to be linked with broad social connectedness in Democrats (friends, the world at-large) and more activity in areas linked with tight social connectedness in the Republicans (family, country).
This was in line with what previous studies have suggested, that people who say they’re Democrats tend to take a more global view on issues while those who call themselves Republicans tend to see things through more of an American filter.
But the findings also ran counter to previous research suggesting Democrats are, by biological nature, more empathetic souls than Republicans. Not so, according to the South Carolina study; it’s just that Republicans are more likely to focus their empathy on family members or people they know.
That’s your amygdala talking
If case you missed it, a study that stirred up much debate last year–done at University College in London–likewise zeroed in on apparent links between political beliefs and brain biology. It found that research subjects who considered themselves conservative tended to have larger amygdala, the section of the brain in the temporal lobes that plays a major role in the processing of emotions.
Self-defined liberals, meanwhile, generally had a larger volume of gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain associated with coping with uncertainty and handling conflicting information.
One of the study’s authors, Ryota Kanai, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. The scientists found nothing to indicate that political orientation is encoded in the brain, or that brain structure alone can shape the way you vote. But this kind of research, he noted, suggests political beliefs may not develop solely from social experience, that they also could have biological roots.