Unpopular Opinion Time: Study Shows Differences in the Brains of “Liberals” and “Conservatives”


I was analyzing common patterns in years worth of debates between individuals who proclaimed to be liberals and those who proclaimed to be conservatives.  I noticed that many of the debates came down to a common difference in principles and motivations - primarily those who were self-preserving, self-orientated, self-serving (i.e., survival of self) and then those who were collectivist, community-orientated, species/planet-serving (i.e., survival of species, life, planet).  I have noticed, from personal experience, that many self-proclaimed conservatives did not seem to grasp or readily notice contradictions in their beliefs, and tended to be quite self-preserving and fear-conditioned. This is not a critique or hard-line generalization, just a personal observation.  I have simply found it very confusing (and frankly, frustrating) at times that, what to me seems to be an easy task of recognizing and properly analyzing/categorizing contradicting information, appeared to be quite difficult for some individuals.

Examples: Being gay is wrong. Why? This scripture in the Bible. But that same Book also says women suck, not to eat pork, not to shave your temples, not to get tattoos…need I go on? I fail to see the problem. Where is the contradiction?

We need to be good Christians and follow Christ’s teachings. November: I love charity. I volunteered with my church at the local soup kitchen for Thanksgiving! March: Ugh, get away you dirty, lazy hobo, get a job and stop asking for handouts.  Abortion is terrible and wrong! Ugh, I’m not paying more taxes to help support poor people who won’t stop having children! Etc. etc. After beating a dead horse enough on these topics, you start to realize…many people truly, and sincerely, fail to see the problem or the contradiction, even when presented with seemingly clear evidence of it. 

Likewise, there are many people who plainly see the frustrating contradictions laid out above. That doesn’t make you a better person, but perhaps simply better at sorting and making sense of contradictions.   So I looked to science to see if there were brain differences between “liberals” and “conservatives”.  At least one study tackles this question:

The differences between liberals and conservatives run wide and deep, and a new study suggests they may even be reflected in the very structure of their brains. 

In the study, led by Ryota Kanai of the University College London, people who identified themselves as liberals generally had a larger anterior cingulate cortex — a comma-shaped region near the front of the brain that is involved in decision-making. By contrast, those who identified as conservatives had larger amygdalas — almond-shaped structures that are linked with emotional learning and the processing of fear. (More on TIME.com: In Politics, It’s Survival of the Fittest, Literally)

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a-higher-level:

I saw a Fox News anchor say roughly this, and I’ve seen the same idea spewed time and time again by conservatives of late, so I felt the need to address how utterly absurd it is. When ones living in a system, even if they want to enact certain changes to said system, its often not feasible to wholly extricate themselves from the system without crippling their ability to efficaciously defeat or reform it. Even more importantly though, the idea that just because something is produced under a certain system necessarily means said thing in inherently tied to that system and could not exist outside of it is ridiculous. I’l give an example to prove it:

During the Islamic Golden Age, their was a wave of intellectual output and advancements, especially in science, math, and medicine, that continue to shape our society by their use today. For instance, Spherical Trigonometry as it is used in modernity is an immediate outcome of advancements during this period. However, no one would ever say something like “Oh, you don’t believe in Islam, but your entire space program uses astronomy based on spherical trigonometry!”

The output and advances made under a certain system, even if that system likely played into their creation in some manner, are not necessarily tied to that system indefinitely. Furthermore, theirs no reason to presume that technology similar to that which is created under one system wouldn’t inevitably emerge under another system in some manner. 

And in fact, people might be surprised to learn that many people are not motivated by money and power and acclaim. Some people are satisfied with credit, appreciation, and the simple, altruistic pleasure of creating and giving. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc - I highly recommend this RSA Animate. There are many RSA Animates that are fantastic.