Sandy sent us this link to a very interesting article from the Chicago Tribune. The title is "Political Attitudes May Be All in the Head--Being conservative, liberal or in-between is wired in the brain, new study suggests," by Judy Peres.
The study came about to test previous research showing that political orientation was related to certain personality traits, and that "conservatives tend to be more rigid and closed-minded, less tolerant of ambiguity, and less open to new experiences." Ya think?
This study asked 43 individuals to rate themselves on a liberal to conservative scale, the measured EEG in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain as they performed a simple task. They were to push a button each time "M" flashed on a screen, but withhold when "W" came up. Since "M" flashed by far the most often, the testees became used to pushing the button. Because liberals scored more accurately, it was concluded that they were more flexible. More interesting, the liberals showed more EEG activity in that area when the "W" came up (I wonder if they should have used another letter..."W" may have other connotations) indicating more neurons firing.
The article hints that there may be a physiological basis for whether one is liberal or conservative.
Another point made is that perhaps people at ideological extremes, be they conservative or liberal, would display a certain rigidity of thinking (do we really need a study to show that?), where moderates, no matter how they affiliate would be more flexible.
It's interesting. 43 people do not make for convincing conclusions, but the trend is intriguing. I'd like to see a much bigger study done, with an extensive questionnaire, which determines classifications, rather than self-selection. I'd be interested in seeing how many people actually wind up as extremes or moderates of the liberal/conservative dichotomy if they had to meet certain criteria, rather than self-identifying.
That would make for an interesting study.
[EEG from AnaesthesiaUK]