Monday, September 10, 2007


I can hardly wait to see the winger reaction to news that their brains are less active than liberals in processing new information. That has generally appeared to be true on an anecdotal level and seems nearly irrefutable in browsing rightwingistan, but now there is clinical evidence.
Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.
The final results:
liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy
Unable to deal with this new emperical data, the study itself pressages the reaction from the right; they'll either ignore it or fulminate, merely confirming the results of the study.

Now, I can see a possible bias in the test.
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.
The bias is obvious. By using a "W," researchers ensured that conservatives would twitch uncontrollably, so perhaps the choice of letters could have been better controlled.


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