Your brain can tell whether you are politically liberal or conservative

Conservative vs LiberalResearchers have found that in making risky decisions liberals and conservatives use different parts of the brain.

This research has been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

Liberal refers to the person who favors gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute assets more evenly, and protect the personal freedom of the individual. Conservative refers to the person who is reluctant to accept the change and who is in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs.

Researchers determined the brain activity of 82 participants as they played the gambling game. They found that the people from both the Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals) are almost similar in the risks they took but they were prominently different in the brain activities during the risk-taking tasks of gambling. Republicans showed a potential level of activity in the right amygdala, a region in the brain that is involved in the fight-or-flight system of the body, while Democrats showed a potential activity in the left insula, a part of the brain that is involved in the social and self-awareness. Researchers noted that these two brain regions can predict with 82.9% of accuracy whether a person is a Democrat or a Republican.

Republicans and Democrats differ in the neural mechanisms activated while performing a risk-taking task (Credit: PLoS ONE)

This research shows that conservatives are more sensitive to threatening stimuli.

This research also shows that the functions of the brain are also influenced by liberal thinking or conservative thinking in addition to the role of genetics and/or parental influence. Dr. Darren Schreiber, a researcher in neuropolitics at the University of Exeter, said in a statement. “Although genetics have been shown to contribute to differences in political ideology and strength of party politics, the portion of variation in political affiliation explained by activity in the amygdala and insula is significantly larger, suggesting that affiliating with a political party and engaging in a partisan environment may alter the brain, above and beyond the effect of heredity.”

According to Dr. Schreiber, “The ability to accurately predict party politics using only brain activity while gambling suggests that investigating basic neural differences between voters may provide us with more powerful insights than the traditional tools of political science.”

Reference:
Schreiber, D., Fonzo, G., Simmons, A., Dawes, C., Flagan, T., Fowler, J., & Paulus, M. (2013). Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans PLoS ONE, 8 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052970