Monday, April 11, 2011

Southern Note: The Difference Lies in the Brain?

Those who follow this blog regularly might have noted on occasion the drastic difference between the perspectives presented by The Balf and Loofy.  This has long amazed me, given the shared genetics and upbringing, but the mystery (at least that one) has been partially solved for me.  Recent studies published by several prestigious universities suggest that there is actually a physiological basis for one's leanings (both personal and political) - in fact, they are reflected in the very structure of their brains.  I don't pretend to understand all the anatomical terms, but basically the studies (most recently reported in Time magazine and on Fox News - what, agreeing on something?) determined that liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex (a region near the front of the brain that is involved in decision making) while conservatives have larger amygdalas (structures typically linked with emotional learning and the processing of fear).  The authors of the studies (Kanai (University College London), Hibbing (University of Nebraska) and a group from Harvard) suggest some interesting extrapolations.  Liberals tend to be better at managing conflicting information and tend to value the autonomy of thought, while conservatives are better at recognizing threats to themselves and others, are less trusting and less likely to change their stance.  Of course, the studies don't examine other influencing factors, or the question of whether brain structure influences political preference or vice versa... Who knows?  Not for me to decide, but interesting to ponder, nevertheless.  On a personal level, I'll save some energy, because now I know that I don't have to work so hard to "sell" liberals on new ideas.  And on the flip side, I'll also not try so hard to change a conservative's mind and just acknowledge that they probably can't help themselves...