Ever read a comment by one of the trolls in HA’s threads, and wonder if the author is brain damaged? Well, apparently….
The differences between liberals and conservatives may run deeper than how they feel about welfare reform or the progress of the Iraq war: Researchers reported Sunday that their brains may actually work differently.
In a study likely to raise the hackles of some conservatives, scientists at New York University and the University of California, Los Angeles, found that a specific region of the brain’s cortex is more sensitive in people who consider themselves liberals than in self-declared conservatives.
The brain region in question helps people shift gears when their usual response would be inappropriate, supporting the notion that liberals are more flexible in their thinking.
“Say you drive home from work the same way every day, but one day there’s a detour and you need to override your autopilot,” said NYU psychologist David Amodio. “Most people function just fine. But there’s a little variability in how sensitive people are to the cue that they need to change their current course.”
The work, to be reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, grew out of decades of previous research suggesting that political orientation is linked to certain personality traits or styles of thinking. A review of that research published in 2003 found that conservatives tend to be more rigid and closed-minded, less tolerant of ambiguity and less open to new experiences. Some of the traits associated with conservatives in that review were decidedly unflattering, including fear, aggression and tolerance of inequality. That evoked outrage from conservative pundits.
Of course the study evoked outrage from conservative pundits… what do you expect from folks who are so rigid, closed-minded, fearful, aggressive, and less tolerant of ambiguity and new experiences? But not to worry, just like with evolution and climate change, conservatives have the perfect answer to science that challenges their rigid ideology… they reject it.
Based on the results, Sulloway said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.
Hmm. I could readily accept that conclusion.
I’ve already received a couple angry emails, and I apologize. It was at the very least insensitive if not downright hurtful, and certainly inappropriate of me to make fun of people who suffer from organic brain disorders like conservatism. And so I’d like to shift gears and ask your help in coming up with a more appropriate label for this debilitating disease, that both honors the humanity of its sufferers and recognizes the love and joy that they can bring into our lives, despite their crippling disability.
In the comment threads, SeattleJew has suggested Conservative Brain Defect (CBD), though I believe Conservative Brain Disorder might be more value neutral. I’ve also suggested that we might just refer to conservatives as the “cognitively challenged.” Or perhaps maybe “differently ideological abled”…? “Hannitycapped”…? “Poliplegic”…?
Please add your suggestions in the comment thread and we’ll conduct a poll later this week.