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The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking.
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study...
Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted -- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.
"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," says Westen. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones..."
Addicts of partisanship need treatments that will prevent them from getting high from defending their tribes...
Political parties harness neural wiring that was probably selected for to encourage tribal solidarity and mutual defense of the tribe. Today it motivates people to defend positions and actions taken by the leaders of their political faction. The human mind was not selected for by evolution to be a perfect reasoning machine.
I feel sorry for the partisans. They are basically drug addicts. But I have greater sympathy for the rest of us who suffer from their actions just as we suffer from the actions of drug addicts.
Originally posted by Sunsetspawn
"Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones..."
This article applies to politics, but I would argue that it could be applied to anything in which the subject "identifies" with a group
In essence, if someone attacks your "tribe", you get an emotional reward by reasoning(perhaps irrationally so) your way out of agreeing with the attack.