Leery About Liberal, Conservative Research Findings
Once again, it’s time for the latest research on the minds and emotions of Liberals vs. Conservatives.
This time, brain differences are explored. Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor at PsychCentral.com writes: “A new study suggests individuals who call themselves liberals are more likely to have brains that have a larger anterior cingulate cortex while conservatives have larger amygdalas.”
(Which came first, the larger anterior cingulate cortex/larger amydala or the political education which taught individuals how to think about the issues in the first place? Neuroplasticity should certainly be a factor when exploring brain differences-some evidence exists that our experiences actually change the brain.
Is it naive to think that political beliefs spring up from nature and not nurture? Family of origin, school education, television/media influence, etc. all have an impact on what many of us (want to) believe is an informed choice born out of our personal mores.)
“According to what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with some reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat.”
Last October we blogged about a study which suggested that, in essence, Liberals were crybabies and Conservatives were bullies. We even blogged several weeks earlier about our leeriness regarding such studies-and we’re in good company. PsychCentral’s founder, Dr. John Grohol, suggests that research studies be put to the test themselves. He discusses how and why flawed research happens.
And what is the overarching cause? Bias.
Dr. Grohol writes: “…here’s the real troubling aspect — these kinds of biased studies appear in all sorts of journals. JAMA, NEJM and the BMJ are not immune from publishing crappy, flawed studies in medicine and psychology. We think of “respectability” of a journal as some sort of sign of a gatekeeping role — that studies appearing in the most prestigious journals must be fundamentally sound.
“But that’s simply not true. The emperor is not only naked — his subjects have hidden his clothes in order to further their own careers.”
I’m not particularly political but C.R. is. She is passionate about political issues that leave me tepid. However, both our viewpoints have evolved over time due in large part to intensive reading (on a variety of subjects including history, economics, and policy), thinking hard about the issues and trying to apply what we’ve learned, as well as heated and interesting discussions (and plenty more reading).
Thinking critically about the issues when you’ve been raised to believe/think there is only one right way (and taught to believe that those who believe/think differently are inferior), is no mean feat. I guess that’s why studies about about the psychological/physiological differences between Liberals and Conservatives leave me leery and dare I say it? Suspicious. Sure, the brain differences might very well be real. But I’d love to know more about the sample of individuals tested as well as the political persuasion of the researcher!
We should note that the study was done with student subjects. I would find it more convincing if the test subjects were from a variety of age and professional backgrounds.
And finally, in the spirit of painful honesty, I’m willing to bet that each of us knows a Liberal or two who is simply not open to new ideas and in fact, is utterly intolerant-try throwing some opposing viewpoints their way and watch them meltdown. And I’m equally willing to bet that each of us knows a Conservative or two who has been the unwitting victim of a scam or crime or who had the rug pulled out from under them when a job loss or divorce occurred-watch them crumble.
Still, we love reading the latest research news!
Photos: Well-known Liberals: anti-war group, Code Pink, led by Medea Benjamin and archive photos of Simone de Beauvoir, Parl Sarte, Che Guevera. Well-known Conservatives author/screenwriter Andrew Klavan, Ronald Reagan, and economist Milton Friedman.
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2011). Leery About Liberal, Conservative Research Findings. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2011/04/leery-about-liberal-conservative-research-findings/