I've wondered about the psychological basis of conservatism for years (see conservative cognition and neuroscience and nuance for examples), and cognitive neuroscience professor Geraint Rees (University College London) has some intriguing research being reported in the Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald (both h/t: Daniel Tencer at Raw Story). Apparently, "conservatives' brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals:"
Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other "primitive" emotions. At the same time, conservatives' brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate -- the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.
This is interesting in light of the University of California study (h/t: TexBetsy at Mock, Paper, Scissors) due next Summer showing that "Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream:"
Not only is the frequency of nightmares much higher among Republicans, but the content is different, too: The nightmares of Republicans tend to be characterized by more aggression, misfortune, and physical threats to family and friends, while Democrats' nightmares are moderated by familiar settings, familiar characters, and more elements of hope, power, and positive action...
Researcher Kelly Bulkeley speculates that:
[P]eople on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world, and they're seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats. [...] People on the left tend to be more utopian and open to the possibility of going beyond the way things are now to how things could be made better.
Media outlets on the Right are very skilled at continually manipulating the fear-filled brains of Chicken-Little conservatives by manufacturing stories that prey upon their prejudices against out-groups; see the Salon list of 2010's trumped-up pseudo-scandals for some recent examples.
I look forward to reading the full studies when they are released.