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With the U.S. presidential election just days away, new research from the University of South Carolina provides fresh evidence that choosing a candidate may depend more on our biological make-up than a careful analysis of issues.
That's because the brains of self-identified Democrats and Republicans are hard-wired differently and may be naturally inclined to hold varying, if not opposing, perceptions and values. The USC study, which analyzed MRI scans of 24 USC students, builds on existing research in the emerging field of political neuroscience.
"The differences are significant and real," said lead researcher Roger Newman-Norlund, an assistant professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health and the director of USC's new Brain Stimulation Laboratory.
The results found more neural activity in areas believed to be linked with broad social connectedness in Democrats (friends, the world at-large) and more activity in areas linked with tight social connectedness in the Republicans (family, country). In some ways the study confirms a stereotype about members of the two parties -- Democrats tend to be more global and Republicans more America-centric -- but it actually runs counter to other recent research indicating Democrats enjoyed a virtual biological lock on caring for others.
"The results were a little surprising," Newman-Norlund said. "This shows the picture is more complicated. One possible explanation for our results is that Democrats and Republicans process social connectedness in a fundamentally different way."