Interesting - political ideology and brain function

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Interesting study - at The Atlantic:

Liberals and Conservatives React in Wildly Different Ways to Repulsive Pictures
Why do we have the political opinions we have? Why do we embrace one outlook toward the world and not another? How and why do our stances change? The answers to questions such as these are of course complex. Most people aren’t reading policy memos to inform every decision. Differences of opinion are shaped by contrasting life experiences: where you live; how you were raised; whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. Emotion comes into the picture, and emotion has a biological basis, at least in part. All of this and more combines into a stew without a fixed recipe, even if many of the ingredients are known.

The study:

In the mid-2000s, a political scientist approached the neuroscientist Read Montague with a radical proposal. He and his colleagues had evidence, he said, that political orientation might be partly inherited, and might be revealed by our physiological reactivity to threats. To test their theory, they wanted Montague, who heads the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech, to scan the brains of subjects as they looked at a variety of images—including ones displaying potential contaminants such as mutilated animals, filthy toilets, and faces covered with sores—to see whether neural responses showed any correlation with political ideology. Was he interested?

Montague initially laughed at the idea—for one thing, MRI research requires considerable time and resources—but the team returned with studies to argue their case, and eventually he signed on. When the data began rolling in, any skepticism about the project quickly dissolved. The subjects, 83 in total, were first shown a randomized mixture of neutral and emotionally evocative pictures—this second category contained both positive and negative images—while undergoing brain scans. Then they filled out a questionnaire seeking their views on hot-button political and social issues, in order to classify their general outlook on a spectrum from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. As Montague mapped the neuroimaging data against ideology, he recalls, “my jaw dropped.” The brains of liberals and conservatives reacted in wildly different ways to repulsive pictures: Both groups reacted, but different brain networks were stimulated. Just by looking at the subjects’ neural responses, in fact, Montague could predict with more than 95 percent accuracy whether they were liberal or conservative.

And it starts to get really interesting:

The subjects in the trial were also shown violent imagery (men pointing revolvers directly at the camera, battle scenes, car wrecks) and pleasant pictures (smiling babies, beautiful sunsets, cute bunnies). But it was only the reaction to repulsive things that correlated with ideology. “I was completely flabbergasted by the predictability of the results,” Montague says.

A long and very interesting article. It explains a lot of events in current "culture".

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