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fmris, cat scans, and eegs for all political candidates September 13, 2007

Posted by KG in news, politics, science.

what will happen if in 50 years we have portable brain scan devices that could scan people’s brains without consent?  that would be scary.

from latimes:

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from “very liberal” to “very conservative.” They were instructed 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.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

here’s the abstract from nature neuroscience:

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.

from neurophilosophy blog:

The ACC is one of the brain’s executive control centres, and is hypothesized to be involved in detecting and signalling conflicts in information processing. So liberals showed significantly more conflict-related brain activity when confronted with a situation in which they are required to break an old habit.

This does not mean, however, that differences in ACC activity are directly correlated to political orientation. Although the brain mechanisms underlying conflict monitoring are already in place at a very early age, the environment is also likely to have a major influence political views.

from dallasnews religion blog:

Amoido, who designed the experiment, is careful to say that it does not say what comes first — brain activity or political disposition. It’s possible that the level of brain activity is “programmed” by the prevailing political culture one lives in. But it may also be true that some people are born with an inclination in one direction or the other. And it may be true that environmental factors override whatever genetics or other “hard-wiring” methods have done to the brain.

But here’s what the paper implies: If I take 1,000 people and play some version of “Simon Says” with them — and particularly if I’m able to check out their brain waves at the time — I should be able to separate them in groups that are more liberal and more conservative (and therefore, for many people, more likely to be Democrats or Republicans) without asking them anything about what they believe.



1. awperson - September 13, 2007

By definition, isn’t a liberal someone who finds something wrong with the world and hence wants to change it? If that is true, then this study proves that people who are more likely to notice that something is wrong are… more likely to notice that something is wrong.

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