Friday, December 31, 2010
Being Liberal Or Conservative - Not A Choice ?
Recent studies at University College London in England show that the brains of conservatives and liberals have significant differences. They studied the brains of some members of parliament and a number of students. Those who were conservative had brains with larger amygdalas -- an area of the brain associated with anxiety and emotions. The liberals had a larger anterior cingulate -- an area of the brain associated with courage and look on the bright side.
If this is true, and the correlations fit in every case, then it is possible that our political views are not really a choice -- but that our brains are "hard-wired" to make us either conservative or liberal. That would mean it was futile to try and convert a conservative or liberal to the other way of thinking -- not something most of us political junkies (on either side) would like to believe.
The flaw in the study is that it was only done on adults. Therefore it can't be certain that the brain determined the political belief. It may be that the political belief determined the brain development. The only way to know for sure which it is would be to examine the brains of a large number of children and then wait to see which political belief they embraced after becoming adults -- something that would takes years to determine.
The lead researcher (Professor Geraint Rees) said, "We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude. It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude."
Personally, I hope this is not true. I prefer to think of political beliefs as a choice -- as a decision that can be changed with facts and reasoning. But I did find the study to be interesting.