Banner
    Do You Have A Liberal Or Conservative Brain?
    By Michael White | May 29th 2009 03:21 PM | 34 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Michael

    Welcome to Adaptive Complexity, where I write about genomics, systems biology, evolution, and the connection between science and literature,

    ...

    View Michael's Profile
    Liberals and conservatives don’t just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses.


    I don't know much about the science behind this, but the NY Time's Nicholas Kristof points readers to an online survey set up by some psychologists to study morals and political beliefs:

    This website is a collaboration among five social psychologists who study morality and politics. Our goal was to create a site that would be useful and interesting to users, particularly ethics classes and seminars, and that would also allow us to test a variety of theories about moral psychology. One of our main goals is to foster understanding across the political spectrum. Almost everyone cares about morality, and we want to understand --and to help others understand -- the many different ways that people care.


    It's clearly true that there is a connection between moral psychology and one's political views. There are few political position that can be reached only by argument and empirical evidence; moral priorities and outlook come into play. In contrast to the way conclusions are reached in science (competent scientists from varying political, cultural, and religious backgrounds come to a consensus that whales descended from land mammals or that reverse transciption is critical for HIV replication), how you feel about justice, authority, loyalty, and God influences (and rightly so) what kinds of political conclusions you reach. Political consensus is not achieved by the same means as scientific consensus.

    So go take the survey (a very brief and free registration is required) and feel free to post your results in the comments. Here are my results - apparently when making right/wrong decisions, I care a lot about fairness and potential harm, but I don't put much stock in authority or moral purity. (Actually, my authority score is surprisingly high, but there were some oddball questions in there that probably skewed the results, like whether I would disobey a commanding officers order's I disagreed with if I were in the military. I'm not big on authority, but unless we're talking about war crimes, you obey when you're in the military. Which is probably why I was never in the military...)






    In any case, go have fun with the surveys.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    "Political consensus is not achieved by the same means as scientific consensus."

    But that raises the question of why it isn't?  Politics is supposed to be studied by "political scientists", economics by economic theorists, with all manner of other categories throwing in their opinions (legal, etc).

    While it is useful that scientists can agree that "whales descended from land mammals", isn't it far more important that we agree on what constitutes "rights"?  Where should the boundaries of government end?  How much power should economics have over individual human beings?  The purpose and direction of the law?

    These are all dramatically more important than worrying about the descent of whales and yet we perpetually find excuses as to why we can't address it.  After all, politics is a uniquely human invention, so why is it so far out of control?

    BTW .... I'm really asking these questions rhetorically rather than expecting a bonafide answer.
    Mundus vult decipi
    adaptivecomplexity
    It may be important to agree on what constitutes a right, but inevitably subjective moral judgments come into play, so you can't expect the same kind of consensus you find in science. And even if we could all agree on rights, policies involve trade-offs; deciding which trade-offs to make also involves subjective moral priorities.
    Mike
    Gerhard Adam
    "...subjective moral judgments come into play..."

    I don't have a problem with that, providing they remain "subjective moral judgements".  Why should such opinions ever rise to the level of law without unanimous approval?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I think these surveys say more about how people want to see themselves in the questions.   Liberal people, for example, are inclined to want to think they are independent and resistant to authority - except when it comes to global warming, smoking, food, gay marriage, etc. and then they want legislation and enforcement.     Conservative people want to regard themselves as caring, unless it comes to terrorists.

    Conservatives are at least pretty consistent - the liberal survery respondents seem to be all over the map, which means they were filling out the answers they way they think they are supposed to for their self image, and reading questions in that light.   It is unlikely that liberals think purity is unimportant when it comes to water or GMO foods, for example, but if they think the question is about sex, they give it the unimportant mark.   Likewise, they don't want to harm anything as long as it is a defenseless animal but a 6-month old fetus is fair game.  


    I'm lower than everyone else on two - harm and fairness (so where does that put me?   I believe in fairness regardless of life experience, so I think someone besides a latina woman can be a good Supreme Court judge, but I believe in excellence more than fairness) while 'harm' is a word that has too many subjective meanings.   I would never shoot a dog, for example, but I get why out of control births leads animal shelters to kill them - and match conservatives on one.   Otherwise I am dead in the middle.  Which sounds like me.
    adaptivecomplexity
    I think these surveys say more about how people want to see themselves in the questions.
    That's definitely true, not least because many of the questions were ambiguous. For example, I agree that 
    People should be loyal to their family members, even when they have done something wrong.   
    But my understanding of what loyalty entails is very different from say, George Bush's. Similarly, the defenseless animal thing is ambiguous - I'm perfectly OK with animal euthanasia, but when I read the question I was thinking more along the lines of causing pain.
    Likewise, they don't want to harm anything as long as it is a defenseless animal but a 6-month old fetus is fair game.
    It cuts both ways - for conservatives, a 6-month old fetus is sacrosanct, but torturing people accused of being terrorists on flimsy evidence, or not caring whether poor children have access to healthcare is no big deal. I don't see how conservatives are more consistent in these questions. 
    As far as liberals being all over the map in this survey, I'm not sure I see it in the graph. It make sense that, when making decisions about what's right and what's wrong, the blue bars are high on the left end and low on the right. You bring up a good point about liberal attitudes towards GMOs, but I would bet that the low blue bars on the right mainly reflect a rejection of religious authority (and associated codes of purity) when making moral decisions.
    Mike
    Hank
    It cuts both ways - for conservatives, a 6-month old fetus is sacrosanct, but torturing people accused of being terrorists on flimsy evidence, or not caring whether poor children have access to healthcare is no big deal. I don't see how conservatives are more consistent in these questions. 
    Exactly.   Conservatives were more consistent in their interpretation of the question while liberals seemed to be more consistent in their interpretation of the answer. 

    By all over the map, I meant relative.  Values are around 3 for conservatives, with high and low of 3.3 and 2.9 - not much deviation.   With liberals the range is 1.3 to 3.8.  Liberals can take heart and say that they are a lot more nuanced than conservatives, if it helps.   :)
    Gerhard Adam
    What I find fascinating is that regardless of whether one is liberal or conservative, I never really hear anyone suggest that government is simply a necessary evil and can NEVER do real good.

    It reminds me of driving on a flat tire, and everyone has a suggestion for how the road should be made and how the wheel should be formed, but it never occurs to anyone that it is the flat tire itself that is the problem. 

    In my view, there is no such thing as a "good" government, there are only varying degrees of how intrusive or evil it is allowed to become.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rholley
    This was known as far back as 1882:
    That every boy and every gal
    That’s born into the world alive
    Is either a little Liberal
    Or else a little Conservative!
    Private Willis's song, from Iolanthe, by W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

    Alas, it seems that the MPs of that day were as supine before their party leaders as our present-day ones:
    When in that House M.P.'s divide,
    If they’ve a brain and cerebellum, too,
    They’ve got to leave that brain outside,
    And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    logicman
    But military people are supposed to keep out of politics.
    And he polished that handle so carefullee
    that now he is the ruler of the Queen's navee.
    Steve Davis

    In my view, there is no such thing as a "good" government,

    Gerhard, that reminded me of an answer Noam Chomsky made to a question after he addressed the National Press Club in Australia a few years back. Asked "What form of government can be trusted?" he replied "Governments are not there to be trusted, they're there to be challenged." 

    Gerhard Adam
    Excellent point, Steve.  A simple question is:

    "Under what circumstances do you think someone else should have a greater right to make a decision affecting your life than yourself?"
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    A very good question Gerhard, in fact, so good that I will devote much thought and care to my reply! See you shortly.
    Steve Davis
    I think the question can be answered on two levels Gerhard; the practical and the philosophical. On the philosophical level, to remain consistent with the views I have presented in this forum, a reasonable person will accept the dictates of another if that other is the group to which the person belongs and is representing the interests of the group. (I might not agree with wearing a seat belt for example, but will grudgingly comply.) On the practical level a reasonable person will accept the dictates of another if that other has the means to enforce compliance. (A pistol in one hand for example.)
    In regard to the philosophical answer it is always open to the individual to challenge decisions that are claimed to be in the group interest, but this route could result in forced compliance.   
    Gerhard Adam
    I can see your point, but to counter .....

    In the first case, you may grudgingly comply, but in fact you comply because you realize that it's a reasonable choice.  It is still your choice, and you aren't letting anyone make a decision on your behalf.  In effect, you've chosen to be cooperative.  However, assuming that you weren't .... to what extent does the other party have a right to force you?

    In the second case, that sounds like coercion, so it really steps outside the concept of someone have a "right" to make the decision. 

    I guess my perspective hinges on the fact that cooperation must be voluntary for it to mean anything.  Therefore, I'm not sacrificing my right to make decisions, but rather (in the sense of cooperating) I'm willing to consider and comply with others that may have better information or make a good case.  The difficulty I always have with this argument is in determining where the boundaries are and how they can be identified.  When does it stop being cooperative and simply becomes coercion.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    It's a huge, huge question Gerhard, which is why my first answer was woefully inadequate. I was going to introduce, as you did, that a reasonable person will first consider that the other person might be in a better position to make a decision, be better informed, but of course this can still lead to coercion where so-called authorities claim to be in a superior position.
    "to what extent does the other party have a right to force you?"
    This brings up the question of legal right as opposed to moral right. As I see it, my government might have a legal right to use my tax money to invade and destroy and murder, but that government does not have a moral right to do so. That decision has impacted on my life, I'm now involved in immoral acts, but all I can do is challenge the decision.
    Gerhard Adam
    That's true, but if you follow the logical train of thought you invariably have to come to the conclusion that, for good or ill, you'd rather reserve the right to make all the decisions on your own life.

    This also leads to the point that the only "rational" position to take is that the absence of government is the only thing that makes sense.  However, you also immediately recognize that that wouldn't work, because it would immediately open you up from invasion by outside forces that could take advantage of your lack of unity, not to mention the fragmentation of the society into smaller segments, etc.

    Overall, we find that we're stuck.  That's why it has been my position to say that ALL laws are bad and serve no purpose except to deprive me of a freedom that I would possess otherwise.  I also don't expect to be successful in such a position, but at least I feel like they'll have to fight for every law they do make. :))
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    it would immediately open you up from invasion by outside forces.
    That's true, but only when you or your community has something desired by outside forces. When the oil runs out and every household on the planet is solar powered (somewhere in a galaxy far far away!) then perhaps the fear of outsiders might disappear. I've noticed that fear of invasion seems highest in those countries (yours and mine!) that participate most frequently in invasions!
    Gerhard Adam
    That's true, but bear in mind that if society were to fragment, invasion doesn't necessarily require a foreign nation.  In addition, there are plenty of other resources that would invite such an action;  farmland, free labor, lumber, minerals, etc.  Virtually anything might fit the bill.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    So an equitable distribution of resources seems to be the solution.
    Gerhard Adam
    Assuming you can control the variable of population growth and it's attendant pressures to expand.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    You mean the Pope might be the problem?
    Gerhard Adam
    Nailed it :))
    Mundus vult decipi
    Steve Davis
    Concision. I love it. Brevity's OK too.
    briantaylor

    It's sweet that you guys missed me so much.
    I presume this must be the case based on the nature of this peice and the discussions after it.
    Michael, Steve, Gerhard, Patrick, Hank, always a pleasure. Robert, we haven't engaged as of yet, I'm sure we will.

    Michael, your peice is perfect. It's a still frame from my Conservatism is Unnatural essay. (Where I discuss the same subject.) I'll elaborate soon enough...

    Gerhard says,
    "I'm willing to consider and comply with others that may have better information or make a good case..."
    In answer to his very excellent question, "Under what circumstances do you think someone else should have a greater right to make a decision affecting your life than yourself?"

    Steve answers with what I'll paraphrase as astute philosophical arguments that could be summed as, "Complicated question. It requires tighter definitions of what is right, good and true, etc..." (Sorry if that seems flippant.)

    But at this stage in the argument, before it veers from the moral to the purely polical it seems to me that you are searching for eudaimonea. But unlike Aristotle, you are attempting to define a "standard" of flourishment beyond that rather wanting definition he gives in the Nichomachean Ethics. This is exactly what I'm working on. (Long pause for gasps of amazement followed by titters of ridicule.) The point is, someone or some "thing" has to determine both expertise and trust, if we are to trust your expertise.

    If I, for instance, do not possess the faculty to truly understand the science of the big bang and I can do nothing to experience it, how is it any different than the idea of God? Why is it that I believe the Scientists but not the Preachers? What if, for me, it's the other way around?

    The dangers of ethical work are precarious. You must tread lightly and chase every rabbit down every hole. I'm finding there are some answers (for instance there are no naturally occuring social norms, or that conservatism goes against nature,) but for the most part you come back with things you wouldn't repeat to the ghosts of  Nero. (I would also argue against the current belief that Morality is a natural phenomenon.)

    Someday soon I hope to bring it up here, so you can all argue with me, which would be very fun indeed!
    But for now, because it's incomplete and I am afeared,  a little background...

    The survey used as the measurement of your politics is in fact the "Definition of Domain of Morality" by Elliot Turiel 1998. It is described as "a prescriptive judgment of justice, rights and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other." It is borne of olde intuitionism, David Hume, 1739, "We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is and ought to be, the slave of the passions - to serve and obey them." It later gained popularity through the twentieth century by the work of people like Lawrence Kohlberg who favoured a rationalistic approach to the development of morality, namely that we did it ourselves, throughout our lives.

    The following is lifted from: http://www.scientificblogging.com/assignee039s_prerogative/blog/conservatism_unnatural

    In fact, we use this standard of:
    Fairness/Justice
    Harm/Care
     Ingroup/Loyalty 
    Authority/Respect
    Purity/Sanctity as the measuring stick of our sociological or moral makeup. The stronger the assignation of importance to the beginning of the list, the more left leaning, liberal, democratic, etc. you are.

    The more importance you assign to the latter three the more right leaning, conservative, authoritative, etc. you are. I’m sure we can agree that the utilisation of judgement where Fairness and Harm are the standards we use is much more logical and productive that using the considerations of Ingroup, Authority or Purity. In fact, the latter three paradigms should be almost entirely dismissed, they are, for the most part, antiquated and spent.

        Ingroup leads to nepotism, racism, classism. How many of us have helped a friend do something illogical? Authority is weighed well by many still. Despite murderous cops, self-serving politicians, and abusive priests... Purity doesn’t refer to the wholeness or correctness of something, but it’s deemed worth. The Dome of the Rock is one of the most traveled to places on the planet. It is a manmade structure where people come to pay homage to a rock. Were they able to, the pilgrims could pick up any rock and assign the same purity to it. They can’t because they’ve been instructed that this rock is special and deservedly so. (In fairness, this last point is why I say we should all but dismiss Ingroup, Authority and Purity considerations, for what if I am wrong and someday an irrefutable force proves to me that the rock is special. Furthermore, Ingroup facilitates family responsibility and cultural comfort which are not unhealthy. There is also Authority in the Universe as there is Purity, I just haven’t found either yet. I know they exist because their opposites are so prevalent.)

    The problem with the measurement is honesty and realism.

    I think we stand in the way of ourselves until our motives become reasonable.

    Best Thoughts,
    Brian.


    Steve Davis

    Good stuff Brian, it was worth the wait!

    As for authority, ultimately there is none. That's not to say that everything should be criticised, but that everything should be looked at critically. Anything less is laziness or cowardice.

    briantaylor
    Is it the laziness or cowardice that keeps us in the minority? I think yes...
    Is it our minority that keeps the fan filthy? I think yes...
    Is there something that can be done about it? I'm sure trying...

    Perhaps ULTIMATELY there is no authority.  But you must assign respect and that is a form of authority.
    N'est Pas? Let us not forget the root of the word. (Patrick, comments on Authority from Author?)

    I went and took the survey. (I'm too thumbed to get it up here...) But let's just say that the questions were poorly planned. This does not surprise me coming from Jonathan Haidt, author of "the Happiness Hypothesis." Who, every time I've heard him open his mouth, pisses me off. If anyone's work deserves to be dismissed on the grounds of being unscientific it is his.  Unfortunately for him, the questions posed do not make for an fair assessment of one's morality, even restricted to politics.  I don't believe there are a list of questions that could properly prove one's morality, they can only point to it. There are only means, no ends.

    An example to illustrate my tired point:
    Hank Said,
    " It is unlikely that liberals think purity is unimportant when it comes to
    water or GMO foods, for example, but if they think the question is
    about sex, they give it the unimportant mark.  "
    He is exactly right and wrong, just like everybody else. Hank is right because the definitions are not given prior to the bias questions. They may as well make up the survey results. He is wrong in his interpretation of Purity. (Not his fault, just to illustrate.) The purity "heading" in the domain of morality has nothing to do with wholeness or correctness, it has only to do with Sanctity, such as my "dome of the rock" example in my earlier post. This is but one of the terms in the ill-defined survey. ( I knew this and scored 0 on purity, does it mean anything? Do you want it to? After completing my logic studies my IQ went up, but of course it didn't, I just got better at taking the test. OR - No way man, my IQ went up.)

    Further to this, Haidt seems hell bent on making his observations fit his conclusions, be damned any arguments. His borrowing of the Domain of Morality to persue happiness is valid. His methodology is not.  He is coming from the biological camp. The social psychologists. It is my opinion that looking at the individual motivation without looking at the totality of the societal effect is useless. There are also the philosophical concerns of "value. " And as Haidt seems to hate philosophy, he is useless, at least in this task. (Sorry Jonathan, you're still less of a jerk and more of a scientist that Sam Harris.)

    Owen Flanagan, Prof of Phil, Duke, "There is a problem in the way we think about the good life."
    Anthony Grayling, Atheist Phil, (self described,) "Individual talents are the reason that ideologies lead to unhappiness."
    Mr. Haidt would do well to sit down with these two gentlemen for a long winded debate.
    Or at least read some Bertrand Russell.
    Always a pleasure,
    Best Thoughts,
    Brian





    LauraHult
    Hmmm...score says I'm fairly neurotic.  Who woulda guessed!  LOL
    Jeez Mr. Taylor,
    Good thing there aren't rules about being pissy here.
    :)

    Do Conservatives Have Smaller Brains?

    Some people’s brains are better suited to introspection than others -

    A specific region of the brain appears to be larger in individuals who are good at turning their thoughts inward and reflecting upon their decisions, according to new research published in the journal Science. This act of introspection -- or "thinking about your thinking" -- is a key aspect of human consciousness, though scientists have noted plenty of variation in peoples' abilities to introspect.1

    Neuroscientist Stephen Fleming and a team of UK researchers have found that people with more gray and white matter microstructures in a particular area of the prefrontal cortex tended to be more introspective, which is to say, better at evaluating their own performance.

    Conservatives are generally not introspective.

    They tend to have difficulty admitting when they make mistakes, they seem oblivious to their own behavior, and the consequences of it, and tend to blame others.

    Case and point: The enormous debt the US is struggling with now was created when the Conservatives were in control of the Congress and the White House. Yet they cannot admit this, and instead, blame the new Congress and White House.

    There is widespread agreement that the current economic crisis has been brought about by poor leadership and greed.

    In a recent Globe & Mail newspaper article, Professor Henry Mintzberg, of McGill University in Montreal, suggests that much of the blame for economic failure can be tied directly to the failure of management education. Professor Mintzberg goes on to point out that lack of introspection in corporate America prevents leaders from learning from their own mistakes.2

    To this day former President George W Bush has never admitted he did anything wrong.

    Was his failure as a leader due to having a smaller prefrontal cortex that blocked
    him from being introspective?

    Quick to anger -

    The ventral area of the prefrontal cortex is known to be crucial for constraining impulsive outbursts. Persons with a predisposition to anger and aggression have been found to have decreased activity in this brain area.

    In August of 2004, Darin Dougherty, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, submitted a study, reported in the Vol. 61 No. 8, of the Archives of General Psychiatry.3

    In this study, when the subjects started getting angry, blood flow increases in the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex were significantly greater in the healthy control subjects than in the subjects who were prone to anger.

    Attaching emotional content to logistical situations is a behavior that is often exhibited by Conservatives.

    If you watch Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or Ann Coulter, you will see that they repeatedly attach emotional content to logistical behavior. And, the emotion they attach most often is anger.

    Do these people have decreased brain activity?
    Is the blood just not flowing to their brains?

    Impaired ability -

    Since the 1980s, scientists have correlated damage to the prefrontal cortex with psychopathic behavior and the inability to make morally and socially acceptable decisions.

    Researchers at the University of Sweden have found the prefrontal cortex to be precisely the area of the brain that is impaired in murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals who repeatedly re-offend. At the November 1999 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Asa Bergvall and her colleagues presented findings on their study of violent offenders.4

    The brains of the violent offenders performed normally in every task except the one, which taps prefrontal function, "In that,” says Bergvall, “It was as if they were retarded."

    They had an impaired ability to shift their attention in order to view the world in a different way – a function linked to the lateral prefrontal cortex.

    Former president George W Bush was often called retarded, because of his impaired ability to shift his view of the world.

    But he was no violent criminal.

    Neurology professor Dr. Antonio Damasio and colleagues at the University of Iowa College of Medicine reported on two cases of early brain damage to the prefrontal cortex. As adults, both patients showed an almost total lack of guilt.5
    
University of Southern California psychopathologist Adrian Raine has documented prefrontal damage in people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by irresponsibility and deceitfulness, lack of emotional depth and remorse.6

    His article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, February 1, 2000 stated that, “The antisocial men actually had 11-14% less brain tissue volume in their prefrontal cortexes, compared to normal males – a deficit of about two teaspoons' worth."

    What if George W. Bush has 5-6% less brain tissue volume in his prefrontal cortexes?
    Not enough to make him a violent criminal, but just enough to block introspection.

    His presidency was certainly characterized by irresponsibility, deceitfulness, and lack of remorse.

    Was this because he was one teaspoon short of a full brain?

    The chicken or the egg -

    Conservatives are called Conservatives because they share similar beliefs.
    Consequently, they exhibit similar behaviors.
    Are their beliefs and behaviors similar because they lack the ability for introspection?

    Do people become Conservatives because they have smaller prefrontal cortexes?

    Simon Gray
    Author 'Cavemen With Cellphones'

    1 - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100916145047.htm

    2 - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/article719382.ece

    3 - http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/61/8/795

    4 - http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/head.html

    5 - http://www.crimetimes.org/00a/w00ap4.htm

    6 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19833485?ordinalpos=1&itool=PPMCLayou...

    Hank
    Conservatives are generally not introspective.

    They tend to have difficulty admitting when they make mistakes, they seem oblivious to their own behavior, and the consequences of it, and tend to blame others.

    Case and point: The enormous debt the US is struggling with now was created when the Conservatives were in control of the Congress and the White House. Yet they cannot admit this, and instead, blame the new Congress and White House.
    Your comment is just thinly veiled political swill but ... whatever.   There were no conservatives in the White House this millenium, just a Republican.  Regardless, if your political spectrum sees only two sides and all Republicans are conservatives, then all Democrats must be progressives, and so "they tend to have difficulty admitting when they make mistakes, they seem oblivious to their own behavior, and the consequences of it, and tend to blame others" surely applies to the current 'progressives' in the White House as well - they have made a huge mistake which may cost them Congress yet refuse to admit it, and former Pres. Clinton made the same one with the same result so they are obviously oblivious to their own behavior or its consequences, and they are still blaming Bush years after they won - so does this mean progressives have even smaller brains than conservatives?  By your reasoning, it does.
    Hmm... Sounds like you ran out of prefrontal cortex...

    Obviously you did not check the source material at the bottom.

    Let's try another one and see if you can follow this:
    http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/brains-of-liberals-conservatives-ma...

    Hank
    :)   Well, I don't see that a Science Daily press release was going to educate me on how closed-minded and insular and blame-oriented conservatives are.  Commenters, like some researchers in speculative social sciences, find data to match their beliefs and then write it as fact, which is fun for political debaters, but not great science.

    Or do people out there accept that conservative are more charitable than progressives and religious people have better morals than atheists?   Those were all studies too.
    Some further thoughts...

    What if I had 5 to 6 percent less brain tissue volume in my prefrontal cortex.
    What if I was not capable of introspection, and I came across this thread.
    How would I react?

    Do I keep reading?
    Do I instantly reject it because somewhere inside me there is a small realization
    that it might be true?
    Would I feel like I am being attacked?
    But attacked by who?
    The truth?

    Would it make me angry? But angry at who, or what?

    Since I wouldn’t be able to look at myself objectively,
    would I lash out at the person who posted it?

    Would I ignore the message and try to attack the messenger?

    And what would be the outcome of that behavior?
    Would it give me the 5 or 6 percent of prefrontal cortex that I am missing?

    LauraHult

    Not sure how this thread floated to the top but it is worth revisiting.

    I truly enjoy watching otherwise stuffy, over-educated, politically correct elites bash each other ad nauseum during election season. And just to stir the pot again, I'll remind folks of this study published in Science Daily:

    Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene' http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101027161452.htm

    DRD4 mutations have been implicated (but not clinically demonstrated) in ADHD, schizophrenia, alcoholism, heroin addiction, and novelty-seeking behaviors (read: risky behaviors). If a link can be found, it would seem reasonable then that Liberalism is not the default, and in fact could ultimately accelerate the demise of said unfortunate organism through the aforementioned behaviors/afflictions/political affiliations. ;)