Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Last Word On Conservative Brain Structure

Today's post, "The Last Word On Conservative Brain Structure," isn't - and can't be, as new studies will be published showing that Conservative brain structures are not conducive to sound thinking or compassionate feelings.  Though the essay, "Differences in Conservative and Liberal Brains," offers "16 peer-reviewed studies show liberals and conservatives physiologically different," we will cherry-pick those that struck our eye, even though we may have written about particular studies in the past, and let you click for the rest:

"In the 16 peer-reviewed scientific studies summarized below, researchers found that liberals and conservatives have different brain structures, different physiological responses to stimuli, and activate different neural mechanisms when confronted with similar situations. Each entry below references the source document and a PDF of each study has been included. The studies are arranged from most recent to oldest. We included all the peer-reviewed studies on this subject which we could find. If you know about others, please contact us with details.
1. Conservatives spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and liberals spend more time looking at pleasant images.

"We report evidence that individual-level variation in people's physiological and attentional responses to aversive and appetitive stimuli are correlated with broad political orientations. Specifically, we find that greater orientation to aversive stimuli tends to be associated with right-of-centre and greater orientation to appetitive (pleasing) stimuli with left-of-centre political inclinations."

Michael D. Dodd, PhD, Amanda Balzer, PhD, Carly Jacobs, MA, Michael Gruszczynski, MA, Kevin B. Smith, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "The Left Rolls with the Good; The Right Confronts the Bad. Physiology and Cognition in Politics," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Mar. 5, 2012

2. Reliance on quick, efficient, and "low effort" thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies.

"...[P]olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement.

Four studies support our assertion that low-effort thinking promotes political conservatism... Our findings suggest that conservative ways of thinking are basic, normal, and perhaps natural."

Scott Eidelman, PhD, Christian S. Crandall, PhD, Jeffrey A. Goodman, PhD, and John C. Blanchar, "Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism," Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 2012

3. Conservatives react more strongly than liberals to disgusting images, such as a picture of someone eating worms.

"People who believe they would be bothered by a range of hypothetical disgusting situations display an increased likelihood of displaying right-of-center rather than left-of-center political orientations… In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images [measured by change in mean skin conductance], such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images."

Kevin B. Smith, PhD, Douglas Oxley, PhD, Matthew V. Hibbing, PhD, John R. Alford, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations," PLOS ONE, Oct. 19, 2011

4. Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala).

"In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI [magnetic resonance imaging]. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala...

"...[O]ur findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty. The amygdala has many functions, including fear processing. Individuals with a larger amygdala are more sensitive to fear, which, taken together with our findings, might suggest the testable hypothesis that individuals with larger amagdala are more inclined to integrate conservative views into their belief systems... our finding of an association between anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] may be linked with tolerance to uncertainty. One of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex is to monitor uncertainty and conflicts. Thus it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."

Ryota Kanai, PhD, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, and Geraint Rees, PhD, "Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults," Current Biology, Apr. 7, 2011

8. Conservatives and liberals react similarly to positive incentives, but conservatives have greater sensitivity to negative stimuli.

"Our findings suggest that conservatives are sensitive to avoidance motivation [motivation through negative stimuli], which produces 'inhibition' responses manifested in greater rigidity... Based on the studies' findings, we would not expect differences between liberals and conservatives in responding to positive stimuli or incentives (i.e., approach cues), but we would expect greater inhibitory reactions by conservatives in response to negative, avoidant cues. Self-regulation appears to provide a useful perspective for understanding how one's political views may affect categorization processes and, more broadly, the association between political conservatism and rigidity."

Mindi S. Rock, PhD, and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, PhD, "Where Do We Draw Our Lines? Politics, Rigidity, and the Role of Self-Regulation," Social Psychological and Personality Science, Jan. 2010

9. Conservatives have more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, the part of the brain that activates for complex social evaluations.

"The conservatism dimension, which corresponds to the liberal-to-conservative criterion, was associated with activity in the right DLPFC [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex]...

"In this study, we speculate that activity in the DLPFC may reflect a role of this region in deliberative decision-making in complex social evaluations... The observation that this region was increasingly activated by conservative beliefs could be explained by claiming that conservative statements require more complex social judgments marked by greater cognitive dissonance between self-interest and sense of fairness...

"[W]e showed that the representation of complex political beliefs relies on three fundamental dimensions, each reflected in distinctive patterns of neural activation: The degree of individualism of political beliefs was linearly associated with activation in the medial PFC [prefrontal cortex] and TPJ [temporoparietal junction], the degree of conservatism with activation in the DLPFC, and the degree of radicalism with activation in the ventral striatum and PC/P [posterior cingulate/precuneus]. Our findings support the interpretation that the political belief system depends on a set of social cognitive processes including those that enable a person to judge themselves and other people, make decisions in ambivalent social situations, and comprehend motivational and emotional states."
Giovanna Zamboni, MD, Marta Gozzi, PhD, Frank Krueger, PhD, Jean-René Duhamel, PhD, Angela Sirigu, PhD, and Jordan Grafman, PhD, "Individualism, Conservatism, and Radicalism As Criteria for Processing Political Beliefs: A Parametric fMRI Study," Social Neuroscience, Sep. 2009

11. Genetics influence political attitudes during early adulthood and beyond.

"The present research attempts to characterize how the transmission of political orientations develops over the life course... [G]enetic influences on political attitudes are absent prior to young adulthood. During childhood and adolescence, individual differences in political attitudes are accounted for by a variety of environmental influences... However, at the point of early adulthood (in the early 20s), for those who left their parental home, there is evidence of a sizeable genetic influence on political attitudes which remains stable throughout adult life."
Peter K. Hatemi, PhD, Carolyn L. Funk, PhD, Sarah E. Medland, PhD, Hermine M. Maes, PhD, Judy L. Silberg, PhD, Nicholas G. Martin, PhD, and Lindon J. Eaves, PhD, DSc, "Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Political Attitudes Over a Life Time," The Journal of Politics, July 21, 2009

12. Compared to liberals, conservatives are less open to new experiences and learn better from negative stimuli than positive stimuli.

"In this study, the relations among political ideology, exploratory behavior, and the formation of attitudes toward novel stimuli were explored. Participants played a computer game that required learning whether these stimuli produced positive or negative outcomes. Learning was dependent on participants’ decisions to sample novel stimuli... Political ideology correlated with exploration during the game, with conservatives sampling fewer targets than liberals. Moreover, more conservative individuals exhibited a stronger learning asymmetry, such that they learned negative stimuli better than positive... Relative to liberals, politically conservative individuals pursued a more avoidant strategy to the game…

"The reluctance to explore that characterizes more politically conservative individuals may protect them from experiencing negative situations, for they are likely to restrict approach to known positives."

Natalie J. Shook, PhD, and Russell H. Fazio, PhD, "Political Ideology, Exploration of Novel Stimuli, and Attitude Formation," Experimental Social Psychology, Apr. 3, 2009

13. Conservatives tend to have a stronger reaction to threatening noises and images than liberals.

"In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats."

Douglas R. Oxley, PhD, Kevin B. Smith, PhD, John R. Alford, PhD, Matthew V. Hibbing, PhD, Jennifer L. Miller, Mario Scalora, PhD, Peter K. Hatemi, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits," Science, Sep. 19, 2008

15. When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary.

"Our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a general mechanism related to cognitive control and self-regulation. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were also more likely to make errors of commission. Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal."

David M. Amodio, PhD, John T. Jost, PhD, Sarah L. Master, PhD, and Cindy M. Yee, PhD,"Neurocognitive Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism," Nature Neuroscience, Sep. 9, 2007

Study after study shows the difference between the brains of liberals vs. their right-wing brethren, and we will continue to maintain that after Conservatism is criminalized that Conservative sheeplets should not be subject to the same punishments as their leaders.

Their IQs can't be increased, but surely a program of re-education, stressing Critical Thinking, Civics, History and The History of Liberlism and Progressivism, etc., can be structured to bring the sheeplets back to a life of productivity and the true understanding of democracy.  They should not be punished for their support of their leaderships' crimes, nor held responsible for them, since we can show that their actions are not completely their fault, and that their brand of "thinking" could be classified as a mental disorder.


"There are certain romances that belong in certain cities, in a certain atmosphere, in a
certain time."

Sammy Davis, Jr.


1 comment:

  1. You stated: "9. Conservatives have more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, the part of the brain that activates for complex social evaluations."

    Do you know who else has high leves of activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices? People with borderline personality disorder. From the Journal of Affective Disorders:



    Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients are characterized by increased levels of aggressivity and reduction of impulse control, which are behavioural dimensions mainly sustained by hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). In this study we aimed at investigating whether hippocampus and DLPFC anatomy may sustain impulsive and aggressive behaviours in BPD.


    Fifteen DSM-IV BPD patients (11 females, 4 males) and fifteen 1:1 matched healthy controls (11 females, 4 males) were studied with a 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and underwent a psychopathological assessment in order to measure the severity of aggressive and impulsive traits.


    Right hippocampal volumes were significantly reduced in BPD patients compared to healthy subjects (p=0.027), particularly in those with a history of childhood abuse (p=0.01). Moreover, in patients but not in controls, right hippocampal volumes significantly inversely correlated with aggressiveness and DLPFC grey matter volumes significantly inversely associated with impulsiveness (p<0.05).


    Our results provide evidence that hippocampus and DLPFC play a separate and unique role in sustaining the control of impulse and aggressive behaviours in BPD patients.