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Neural correlates of political ideology

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posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 03:18 PM
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Thought some might find this interesting:


Published online: 9 September 2007; | doi:10.1038/nn1979

Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism

Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.

Amodio et al (2007). Nature Neuroscience, advanced online pub.

In essence, conservatives show brain activity that suggests they are better equipped for a fixed world with firm concepts and relationships, whereas liberals can better handle the conflicting ambiguity of the real-world.

This is neuroscientific support for the numerous studies that show different cognitive styles for two classes of general political ideology. Such as need for order and structure in conservatives, and greater openess to new experiences and complexity in liberals.

Interesting stuff.




[edit on 11-9-2007 by melatonin]




posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 05:55 PM
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Fascinating! Is there a link to this somewhere? I'd like to see who was doing the work and what their previous work was. I"ll admit I was charmed by the idea that we liberals are " more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty."

The cingulate cortex is an interesting place:
en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 06:03 PM
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Here's a link to David Amodio's Social Neuroscience lab website.

www.psych.nyu.edu...

Much of his work thus far has been on the neuroscience of prejudice. He used to be a post-doc with Matt Lieberman at UCLA, who also does some interesting Soc Neuro work. I think the second author on this study, John Jost, is more the specialist on political psychology.


apc

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 06:50 PM
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Originally posted by Byrd
I"ll admit I was charmed by the idea that we liberals are " more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty."

Well... liberals do love to be told how awesome they are.




Participants watched a computer screen that displayed the letter “M” or “W” for a split second in rapid succession.

The researchers asked half of the group to press a computer key whenever they saw “M” but not “W.” The other half of the group got the opposite assignment – press the button for “W” but not “M.”

Most of the time, participants saw the letter that was supposed to prompt them to press the computer key. But 20% of the time, they saw the other letter and were supposed to refrain from pushing the computer key.

Compared with conservatives, liberals were more likely to refrain from pressing the computer key when the wrong letter appeared. Liberals also showed more activity in a brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in monitoring conflicting information, note Amodio and colleagues.


I do agree conservatives tend to stick with what has proven to work, and liberals tend to try new and different things.

There have been numerous studies suggesting that the two, if one were to define everybody as one or the other (which is obviously a grossly flawed methodology), are inherited traits or have genetic components.

So you can't really blame them. They were born that way.


[edit on 11-9-2007 by apc]



posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:05 PM
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I read about this in the newspaper today or yesterday, I think it was. I couldn't help wondering whether the brain effects were the cause or the effect of the political ideology. For instance, are people genetically predisposed to being a certain ideology, or does practicing that ideology change your way of thinking? In other words, are conservatives/liberals born or made?


apc

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:19 PM
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I tend to disagree with the studies that conclude one is predisposed. It is not unusual to find that people drift from one to the other, or float in between. The former seems to be extremely common among political candidates.

It is interesting as this study concludes, although I question their method, that political ideology could be a construct of neuroscience as are most other behavioral qualities.



posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:32 PM
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Originally posted by DragonsDemesne
I read about this in the newspaper today or yesterday, I think it was. I couldn't help wondering whether the brain effects were the cause or the effect of the political ideology. For instance, are people genetically predisposed to being a certain ideology, or does practicing that ideology change your way of thinking? In other words, are conservatives/liberals born or made?


I had the same question! I mulled about the brief paragraph there, and then remembered seeing on an ultra-ultra-conservative-Christian board the meme to NOT send you kids to a regular college (but to a Bible college) because it would tun them into hideous Satanic liberals. It's true that people who go to college encounter a lot of very different experiences than those who stay home (and might not meet, for instance, several Pakistanis or people from Malaysia or Sweden) and because of this tend to be more liberal.

I think perhaps the tendencies are there... some folks like a more structured world and don't care for a lot of change. However, I also wondered about this in the context of survival and in the long run it doesn't seem like a good survival trait.


apc

posted on Sep, 11 2007 @ 07:51 PM
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Hah! So that's why ultra-conservatives hate Darwin. He says they're going to go extinct!


I think if you look at how the two ideologies manifest in their extreme form as that is only appropriate, both fail.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 03:33 AM
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Use it or lose it


Originally posted by Byrd
Some folks like a more structured world and don't care for a lot of change. However, I also wondered about this in the context of survival and in the long run it doesn't seem like a good survival trait.

I thinik it depends on the environment, Byrd.

Here's how I look at it: if an animal lives in an environment in which change is infrequent and today can be expected to be a repeat of yesterday, then it makes sense for its way of life to evolve into a set of structured, repeated patterns triggered by familiar environmental stimuli. It saves a lot of energy, since there is no need to develop the neural complexity required to deal with change; energy is also saved in the day-to-day activities of life because there's less information processing to be done, and less physical hesitation and vacillation also. And in fact, most animal behaviour is of precisely this kind. Animals are mostly automatons.

A certain flexibility of response is still desirable in theory, because it promises greater adaptability and hence, as you say, enhances survival. But if these adaptive faculties are not exercised frequently enough, they will atrophy as selection pressure drives energy available for development in other directions.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 07:01 AM
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But if you define intelligence as a ' adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the current environment and capacity for original and productive thought', I think it is pretty obvious that liberals are more fit to ever changing situation and progress.


apc

posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 07:20 AM
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Ah... the standard liberal "my way of thinking is better than your way of thinking."

Conservatism without liberalism fails. Liberalism without conservatism fails (but at least it looks cool when it does... all the pretty colors).

Liberalism needs conservatism to ground it in reality, and conservatism needs liberalism to introduce fresh methods and ideas.

Neither is more survivable than the other as it is a truly codependent relationship.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 08:52 AM
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Save the conservatives!

reply to post by blue bird
 
Actually, you don't even have to define intelligence in that way to arrive at the obvious conclusion that liberals are selectively fitter than conservatives under current conditions -- and in the long run, too.

Take two animals of the same species, whom we shall call C and L. They share the same genotype but with different alleles at certain critical locations. These genomic differences make C more prone to stereotyped, automatic responses to environmental stimuli relative to L, which is more adept at evolving new behaviours in response to novel stimuli.

As long as their environment is reasonably static or predictable in its changes, natural selection favours C. Its conspecific L has invested a lot of energy in building the more complex neural and physical structure required* to adopt and display new behaviour. In a static or predictably changing environment this energy investment is largely wasted. C still has that energy available for hunting or foraging, reproduction, offspring nurture, etc., and so is likely to do better than L in such an environment.

If the environment is prone to frequent and/or unpredictable change, however, C's repertoire of automatic, stereotyped responses is less effective, and in some cases may even be antithetical to survival. In such an environment, L may do better than C; it will likely survive longer and have more offspring, some of whom will inherit the 'L-type' genetic variation that confers adaptability to environmental changes on the possessor.

Now let's apply this to human evolution. Back in the Lower Pleistocene, things didn't change that much, or that fast, for humans. Rates of environmental variation were probably much the same for us as for other animals. The environment would favour 'C-type' genes over 'L-types', in humans (and in other animals too).

But humans our meddlesome. They don't leave their environment alone. They mess with it. They extend their phenotype. And -- blame those big brains and the language they invented -- they just keep on extending and modifying it, till it now covers the entire inhabited planet. The human phenotype is now by far the most important environmental influence on its own evolution!

Our extended phenotype has evolved extremely rapidly in comparison with our genotype, and -- as numberless observers have detected -- its rate of change has increased throughout prehistory and history. It is now changing faster than it ever has before (brief and untypical cataclysms excepted).

Now it's fairly obvious that, as the rate of extended phenotypic (environmental) change increases, L-type humans will be favoured over C-type humans. Note that at this point 'C-type' doesn't mean conservative and 'L-type' doesn't mean liberal. It means only a certain genetic predisposition with respect to adaptation in response to environmental changes.

If, over time, the environment increasingly favours L-types over C-types, then the relative frequency of L-types to C-types in the population must increase.

Now this is probably impossible to establish without historical data going back thousands of years, which we don't have. There is (probably) no way to test whether the proportion of L to C types has increased over time. Indeed, we are not entirely certain whether L-types and C-types even exist as such.

But remember, this is a human population we're talking about. Its members can speak. They can tell us, or we can infer from their words, what they feel and what they want.

Now imagine how a C-type human -- one that is not good at adapting to change -- would talk about an uncomfortably fast-changing world. He would bemoan the loss of old verities and values, of the simplicity of a world in which he 'knew where he stood'. He would constantly sing the praises of times and values past, and would do his best to persuade his fellows to oppose and reject change. He would attempt to cover up his incompetence in the face of novelty by railing against or contemptuously dismissing 'newfangled' gadgets and ideas.

He would, in fact, be a conservative.

An L-type human, on the other hand, would be more comfortable with change. She would welcome it and even attempt to create and shape it. She would be tolerant of -- even fascinated by -- novelty, hesitant to make final judgements about anything and feel relatively confident about the future -- her own and that of the human race. She would believe in progress and scientific enlightenment.

She would be a liberal.

Now, if my little theory is true, liberals should be becoming more common in the human population relative to conservatives (L-types should be gaining ground on C-types). Where once there was an overwhelming C-type majority across the whole human range, there should now be a stronger L-type representation. In certain areas (where the pace of change has been fastest, perhaps), L-types may have become almost as numerous, even in a few cases more numerous, than C-types.

And if we look at the broad sweep of human history, this is precisely what we see. Of course there have been -- and continue to be -- eddies and back-surges, but the general trend of human culture has been away from conservatism in the direction of greater liberalism, and the trend has accelerated even as the pace of change in the human environment has. C-types are slowly but inexorably giving way to L-types.

Oh, conservatism continues to flourish and will probably continue to do so for millennia to come; remember, it was universal fifty thousand years ago; we've come a long way in that short time -- especially in the last thirteen thousand years -- but we've still got a long way to go. Yet, unless a new period of stasis is somehow imposed on us by some global catastrophe, I reckon we're going to get there -- 'there' being a world in which liberals outnumber conservatives by a large majority and the pace of change is absolutely frantic.

then conservatism will have gone the way of the dodo, whither it is already inescapably headed. Whether this is a good thing or not, I leave you to decide; personally, I rather favour the idea.
---------------------

*Well, presumably required; but I think the available evidence supports the presumption.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 10:39 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


What can I say - but this is an outstanding post Astyanax ( as always)


This moment in human history is truly different than any other - computers, biotech...conditions are fast changing - that conservatives are, to put it politely, confused....all they want is to 'conserve'. And what that mean: denying the new reality.

Conservatives know that new ideas bring - change and they try to fight them - they are prone to keep status quo, bound with ideas that they inherited....not to mention claming ' ancient wisdom' for themselves, from opposing things that they found threatening, and in fact they know nothing about.


My remarks are in fat describing the difference between these two mentality ( as they are in my opinion ) but I am not so sure, that there is some kind of 'born with ' situation here. It sounds like forgotten Lombroso theory of 'born criminal mind'...nah...it takes all the burden of responsibility off.



[edit on 12-9-2007 by blue bird]


apc

posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 11:59 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


The flaw in your argument is that you reason survival of the fittest, in response to environmental factors, is the only factor in evolution. Obviously it is not. Competition is significant.

Look at how liberalism manifests in socioeconomics. Communism and Socialism. Both are inherently anti-competition. When competition stops, evolution stops. When evolution stops, a species dies out.

Conservatives typically do adapt to change, they just take longer. They weigh the change against what has proven to produce success and if they anticipate failure, reject it. Liberals on the other hand rapidly embrace change, and often find the change to be self-destructive and, ironically enough, counter-progressive.

Liberalism often gets liberals killed, too. Being able to adapt to change doesn't do you much good if that ability gets you an angry lynch mob at your door. That's not to say conservatism doesn't get conservatives killed, as Marx pointed out.

So I reaffirm, liberalism without conservatism to ground it is futile, but conservatism without liberalism to refresh it is equally futile.

One without the other is an evolutionary failure.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 12:46 PM
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Originally posted by apcLiberalism needs conservatism to ground it in reality, and conservatism needs liberalism to introduce fresh methods and ideas.

Erm... the conclusions were that the world is an ambiguous place and conservatives aren't good at dealing with ambiguities. That's why I said it looked like it wasn't a strong survival trait.


Neither is more survivable than the other as it is a truly codependent relationship.


Nice observation!



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 01:08 PM
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I do think that we should acknowledge that conservatives are good at acquiring power and holding onto it. Most of the past rulers have come from establishments that got into power and wanted to maintain the status-quo... to force the world to stay as it was. I'm not sure why liberals are not as effective... perhaps it's the "I don't want to be mean" mentality or the ferret-like "And on the topic of -- OOOOH! SHINYTHING!! NEW TOY!!!" distractability, but very few truly liberal governments have arisen and fewer still have stayed in power.

I do think that the modern times tend to favor those with the traits described for liberals -- tolerance for ambiguity, in particular.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 01:10 PM
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Originally posted by apc
Look at how liberalism manifests in socioeconomics. Communism and Socialism.


Small point, here... those are liberal philosophies but if you look at the leaders, you'll see they're quite conservative: the "we have a system and don't you dare mess with it!" mindset. Dictators tend to be like that.



posted on Sep, 12 2007 @ 01:18 PM
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Wow! Nice thread. I worry about floating voters, but have my own thoughts. It seems as though age groupings are important. I have wondered for quite a while if people who do not have suffering (the good times) feel suffering less as they don't need to, whilst those who do suffer, feel that in others more. I wonder if at a certain time in the brain's development, a person's environment hard wires into the brain. Just a thought.



posted on Sep, 13 2007 @ 04:29 AM
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Originally posted by apc
The flaw in your argument is that you reason survival of the fittest, in response to environmental factors, is the only factor in evolution. Obviously it is not. Competition is significant.

I don't like to use the phrase 'survival of the fittest', because it tends to make people think biggest, fastest, strongest, etc. Instead I speak, as evolutionary biologists do, of selective fitness -- that which best fits an organism to reproduce, passing on its genes. There is a school of thought that regards this definition of fitness as tautological, but let us not be distracted.

The ability to compete effectively with others of the same species is a vital component of selective fitness -- ome would say it was the most vital. This has been clearly understood since Darwin, who pointed out as much in The Origin of Species.


Look at how liberalism manifests in socioeconomics. Communism and Socialism.

Are you speaking of group selection among groups labelled 'Communist' and 'Socialist'? That can only occur if it does not go against selection at the level of the gene.

Behind the monolithic state-run corporations and constipated bureaucracies of Socialism and Communism, individuals continued to compete with one another to survive, reproduce and ensure the survival of their genes. In the artificial stasis produced by those highly conservative systems of government, Communism and Socialism (Byrd is right, as she so often is), C-types probably did better than L-types. But these refuges of conservatism are no more, and the march of the L-types across Eastern Europe has since resumed.


apc

posted on Sep, 13 2007 @ 07:35 AM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
Are you speaking of group selection among groups labelled 'Communist' and 'Socialist'? That can only occur if it does not go against selection at the level of the gene.

I disagree.

I believe group selection among humans is largely a result of conscious choice. Particularly when the distinction of fitness is manually projected on mass. However, as you note, it does eventually fail as it is in conflict with natural selection, which is largely my point.

In the real-world manifestations of liberalism, regardless of who is pulling the strings, everyone is forced into a state of supposed equality. Internal competition persists despite this doctrine, which eventually undermines the entire system leading to collapse.

I suspect the "march" across Eastern Europe is a direct result of the "rats deserting the sinking ship" that was the Soviet Union, not a reemergence of the ideology.

Without a strong foundation on which to build their home, the L-types are denied the opportunity to reproduce in significant numbers. Not to mention they have a lower birth rate, for obvious reasons, than C-types. This aids in keeping the two in balance. Lacking a significant external influence on the C-types, some sort of dramatic persistent paradigm shift resulting in high mortality (alien occupation, asteroid impact, etc), this balance should also persist. But even in such an imbalance, it is apparent that C-type reemerges as it is more in line with human nature, the succession of self and personal performance, than the L-type.



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