Monday, September 10, 2007

Liberal & Conservative Brains

There is a new study out on the difference between liberal and conservative brains and how each type functions. Full article can be read here.
Frank Sulloway, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research, at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, said results "provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity."

Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times more likely than conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts and were 2.2 times more likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.

What does this mean? Very simply that liberals actually use their brains more - this is that little known activity called THINKING! Some people (especially conservatives) have heard rumors of such activity but haven't experienced much of it themselves.

It doesn't say if this is genetic, that our brains are hard wired for a particular way of thinking. The study really isn't broad enough for that but my guess is it would be 50/50. This is the usual percentages researchers in nurture/nature studies cite. This is because they don't really know except that both seem to have very large influences.

My guess is that this type of mindset is learned and is based on two very different perspectives. For the liberals it's all about curiosity, for the conservatives it's all about fear. How does one get their particular perspective that shapes how their brains function? That brings us back to the nurture/nature argument. In my opinion nurture vs nature is all over the board, some people seem to be highly influenced by how they were raised while others seem to be completely untouched by it and go their own way, and still others seem a nice blend of both. In my case I've pretty much always been curious and still am. I read science and history books for fun, after all, just to learn something new. Conservatives seem to be more concerned with being safe than in learning new things. In fact, one very strong image I have of the religious conservative is they want to keep their children away from knowledge because it's dangerous.

They'd be right, it is dangerous, probably THE most dangerous thing around, but that just makes it more interesting.


Marq Goldberg said...

Science has repeated demonstrated that conservative brains simply don't function. Obviously conservatives deny that but they prove it every time they open their mouths. The following is from a Psychology Today article.

We tend to believe our political views have evolved by a process of rational thought, as we consider arguments, weigh evidence, and draw conclusions. But the truth is more complicated. Our political preferences are equally the result of factors we're not aware of—such as how educated we are, how scary the world seems at a given moment, and personality traits that are first apparent in early childhood. Among the most potent motivators, it turns out, is fear. How the United States should confront the threat of terrorism remains a subject of endless political debate. But Americans' response to threats of attack is now more clear-cut than ever. The fear of death alone is surprisingly effective in shaping our political decisions—more powerful, often, than thought itself.

Abstract Art vs. Talk Radio: The Political Personality Standoff
Most people are surprised to learn that there are real, stable differences in personality between conservatives and liberals—not just different views or values, but underlying differences in temperament. Psychologists John Jost of New York University, Dana Carney of Harvard, and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals boast markedly different home and office decor. Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start. Multiple studies find that liberals are more optimistic. Conservatives are more likely to be religious. Liberals are more likely to like classical music and jazz, conservatives, country music. Liberals are more likely to enjoy abstract art. Conservative men are more likely than liberal men to prefer conventional forms of entertainment like TV and talk radio. Liberal men like romantic comedies more than conservative men. Liberal women are more likely than conservative women to enjoy books, poetry, writing in a diary, acting, and playing musical instruments.

"All people are born alike—except Republicans and Democrats," quipped Groucho Marx, and in fact it turns out that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are evident in early childhood. In 1969, Berkeley professors Jack and Jeanne Block embarked on a study of childhood personality, asking nursery school teachers to rate children's temperaments. They weren't even thinking about political orientation.

Twenty years later, they decided to compare the subjects' childhood personalities with their political preferences as adults. They found arresting patterns. As kids, liberals had developed close relationships with peers and were rated by their teachers as self-reliant, energetic, impulsive, and resilient. People who were conservative at age 23 had been described by their teachers as easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and vulnerable at age 3. The reason for the difference, the Blocks hypothesized, was that insecure kids most needed the reassurance of tradition and authority, and they found it in conservative politics.

The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.

The study's authors also concluded that conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity, a trait they say is exemplified when George Bush says things like, "Look, my job isn't to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think," and "I'm the decider." Those who think the world is highly dangerous and those with the greatest fear of death are the most likely to be conservative.

Liberals, on the other hand, are "more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information," says Jost. As a result, liberals like John Kerry, who see many sides to every issue, are portrayed as flip-floppers. "Whatever the cause, Bush and Kerry exemplify the cognitive styles we see in the research," says Jack Glaser, one of the study's authors, "Bush in appearing more rigid in his thinking and intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity, and Kerry in appearing more open to ambiguity and to considering alternative positions."

PacNorthwest said...

All you can conclude from this article is that Liberals use more of their brain than Conservatives. The difference can occur from social upbringing.

Women use more of their brain than men, but that doesn't equate to increased intellect, as men still score higher on aptitude and IQ tests. I took a few courses on Women and Gender in college, and one thing they repeated constantly is that women and mens brains develop differently because of what society tells them to value. The brain is like a muscle.

This study doesn't mean that Liberals are somehow "smarter" than conservatives. But it seems people are trying to spin it that way. I've seen studies that say Conservatives have more natural testosterone in their bodies, but they don't tell you that Conservatives are more likely to have blue-collar, manual labor type jobs - that create testosterone.

Anonymous said...

Pac the important thing to notice here is the PART of their brains that liberals use that conservatives don't. Its the part that makes you aware of whether information you are taking in conflicts with what you think you know. People who are capable of using this portion of their brains (liberals) are able to LEARN. People who cannot use this portion of their brains are NOT able to learn. The end result is that conservative have completely lost touch with reality. They walk around believing a bunch of crap that causes them to work against their own best interests and the interests of everyone else as well. They are unable to connect their actions with their results. And that, my friend, is the legal definition of total insanity.

I said...

Another difference between liberals and conservatives, is that liberals spend a substantial amount of brain power generating studies/talks/videos/articles/blogs in hopes of changing lies into perceived fact. It's really interesting to see it occurring everywhere you look. No matter what the truth is, there is another narrative constantly being created and supported in the network of liberals. If only that brain power were used to actually make the world a BETTER place, the results would be monumental. Even global-warming would decrease in relation to a decrease in flatulence coming from the left if they would cease their operation. One can only HOPE for CHANGE.