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Wed Feb 13, 2013, 10:22 PM

Red Brain, Blue Brain: Republicans and Democrats Process Risk Differently, Research Finds

Feb. 13, 2013 A team of political scientists and neuroscientists has shown that liberals and conservatives use different parts of the brain when they make risky decisions, and these regions can be used to predict which political party a person prefers. The new study suggests that while genetics or parental influence may play a significant role, being a Republican or Democrat changes how the brain functions.

Dr. Darren Schreiber, a researcher in neuropolitics at the University of Exeter, has been working in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, San Diego on research that explores the differences in the way the brain functions in American liberals and conservatives. The findings are published Feb. 13 in the journal PLOS ONE.
In a prior experiment, participants had their brain activity measured as they played a simple gambling game. Dr. Schreiber and his UC San Diego collaborators were able to look up the political party registration of the participants in public records. Using this new analysis of 82 people who performed the gambling task, the academics showed that Republicans and Democrats do not differ in the risks they take. However, there were striking differences in the participants' brain activity during the risk-taking task.
Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness. Meanwhile Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in the body's fight-or-flight system. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk.
In fact, brain activity in these two regions alone can be used to predict whether a person is a Democrat or Republican with 82.9% accuracy. By comparison, the longstanding traditional model in political science, which uses the party affiliation of a person's mother and father to predict the child's affiliation, is only accurate about 69.5% of the time. And another model based on the differences in brain structure distinguishes liberals from conservatives with only 71.6% accuracy.
The model also outperforms models based on differences in genes. Dr. Schreiber said: "Although genetics have been shown to contribute to differences in political ideology and strength of party politics, the portion of variation in political affiliation explained by activity in the amygdala and insula is significantly larger, suggesting that affiliating with a political party and engaging in a partisan environment may alter the brain, above and beyond the effect of heredity."
These results may pave the way for new research on voter behaviour, yielding better understanding of the differences in how liberals and conservatives think. According to Dr. Schreiber: "The ability to accurately predict party politics using only brain activity while gambling suggests that investigating basic neural differences between voters may provide us with more powerful insights than the traditional tools of political science."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213173131.htm

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Reply Red Brain, Blue Brain: Republicans and Democrats Process Risk Differently, Research Finds (Original post)
octoberlib Feb 2013 OP
Dragonbreathp9d Feb 2013 #1
hedda_foil Feb 2013 #2
Warpy Feb 2013 #3
hedda_foil Feb 2013 #7
Jim__ Feb 2013 #5
hedda_foil Feb 2013 #6
Ichingcarpenter Feb 2013 #4

Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 12:26 AM

1. Very interesting article

Especially since fight or flight is a very primitive instinct

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 12:27 AM

2. Very interesting but I think they may have cause and effect reversed.

It just doesn't seem likely that someone would become a Dem if their brain activated the flight or fight response to risk, and then become analytical about risks as a result of changing party. More likely that the brain pattern is persistent and eventually overcomes family voting behavior. At least that's what I think. Have I misinterpreted the article's points?

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 01:53 AM

3. It holds true now because of the way the GOP is marketed

The flight or fight response is cultivated in Republican media, the faked scandals and sky-is-falling slanted language triggering the response while blocking everything else out.

60 years ago, I sincerely doubt whether researchers would have found such a stark difference in brain functioning breaking so neatly along party lines. Republicans were just as analytical as Democrats were, they just came up with the wrong answers a lot of the time.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 01:10 PM

7. Thanks, Warpy. That's a very good point.

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 07:22 AM

5. My reading of the paper on PLOS is that the direction of causality remains undetermined.

The original paper contains this paragraph under the discussion section:

One intriguing remaining puzzle regards the direction of causality. One might infer that the differing brain structures identified by Kanai et al. suggest genetic foundations for the differences in ideology. However, recent work has shown that changes in cognitive function can lead to changes in brain structure , . For instance, applicants who worked to learn the map of London in order to pass a knowledge test required of potential cab drivers demonstrated significant growth in their hippocampus, a brain region related to memory formation .

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 01:08 PM

6. Thanks for clarifying. That makes a lot more sense.

I should have read the paper itself instead of relying on the writeup. I'm glad you read it.

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Response to octoberlib (Original post)

Thu Feb 14, 2013, 02:59 AM

4. Another LInk with pictures

Liberal refers to the person who favors gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute assets more evenly, and protect the personal freedom of the individual. Conservative refers to the person who is reluctant to accept the change and who is in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs.

Read more: http://saypeople.com/2013/02/14/your-brain-can-tell-whether-you-are-politically-liberal-or-conservative/#ixzz2KrGueeBr




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