compassion for conservatives

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Asking is your brain right-wing?, Chris Mooney examines recent neurological research and wonders "should we take this research seriously, given its highly controversial nature?"

Political conservatives in the UK have been found to have a larger right amygdala...and also to rely on it more in performing a risky gambling task. Thus, the hypothesis is that the amygdala is involved in conservatives' greater sensitivity to threat, and a suite of political responses that flow from that - harsher views on crime and punishment, for instance, and a greater distrust of out-groups.

Political liberals, meanwhile, have been shown to have more gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) - a region thought to be involved in error detection, helping us switch out of automatic responses and into controlled, measured responses - and to show greater ACC firing in a task requiring one to change a habitual pattern of responding. And this, in turn, is hypothesised to relate to liberals' greater tolerance of uncertainty and nuance, and stronger acceptance of political change.

Noting the broader implications of incomplete--although tantalizing--knowledge, he concludes that "There is simply no running away from scientific knowledge:"

This bell cannot be unrung. But interpreting its meaning is something else again. My plea: we all have strengths and weaknesses, and if politics is partly rooted in biology, then tolerance and understanding - a full understanding and acceptance of difference - become more important than ever.

Similarly, here's a look at evangelical voters and how their voting rationales differ from those of secular liberals:

When secular liberals vote, they think about the outcome of a political choice. They think about consequences. Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes.

When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become -- what humans could and should be, rather than who they are.

It's too bad that their beliefs--political and otherwise--are not more amenable to change.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 8, 2012 9:10 AM.

Republicans try anything...again was the previous entry in this blog.

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