Liberals and Conservatives might ACTUALLY be wired differently

As I’ve always suspected…

From the Los Angeles Times:

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.
The results show “there are two cognitive styles — a liberal style and a conservative style,” said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from “very liberal” to “very conservative.” Scientists instructed them to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.
M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter….

Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said…

Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.
Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a flip-flopper for changing his mind about the conflict.
Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas….

it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better than another. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.
Political orientation, he noted, occurs along a spectrum, and positions on specific issues, such as taxes, are influenced by many factors, including education and wealth. Some liberals oppose higher taxes and some conservatives favor abortion rights.
Still, he acknowledged that a meeting of the minds between conservatives and liberals looked difficult given the study results.
“Does this mean liberals and conservatives are never going to agree?” Amodio asked. “Maybe it suggests one reason why they tend not to get along.”

  2 comments for “Liberals and Conservatives might ACTUALLY be wired differently

  1. Dan Chmielewski
    September 10, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Great post Ed; its explains so much

  2. September 11, 2007 at 7:58 am

    You’re right and there is no doubt a hard-wired difference but it’s not black and white. The problem comes from trying to find where on the spectrum of the authoritarian mindset people fall.

    If you’d like more insight into this read Robert Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians which can be read or downloaded from here:

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