Fear Factor

Well, here we go again with another study purporting to demonstrate the difference between the mentalities of “conservatives” and “liberals” in terms of physiological discrepancies in their respective cerebral structures.

According to findings by neuroscience researchers at the University College of London (apparently in response to a whimsical challenge launched by actor Colin Firth on a BBC Radio chat program), it was discovered that conservatives have thicker tissues in a part of the brain called the amygdala (also sometimes colloquially referred to as the “lizard brain”), which is responsible for fear and other primitive emotions, whereas liberals have thicker anterior cingulates, which are associated with presumably more refined emotions such as optimism and courage.

Seems most probably bunk science to me, but one never knows… it could certainly explain a lot of things.

p.s. Speaking of Colin Firth, I watched the Tom Ford movie “A Single Man” the other night. What an absolutely beautiful, meticulously drawn film.


5 Replies to “Fear Factor”

  1. I am always uncomfortable with notions of biological determinism. The whole idea rubs me the wrong way because it takes the idea of free-will out of the process. But this study definitely amused me and would explain a lot about how many conservatives seem to be just wrapped up in a kind of angry paranoia through no rational cause.

  2. So, if I get my amygdala tissues shaved down to a normal level I’ll have no need for my hunting rifle, my ATV, I’ll watch the hockey game but turn off Coach’s Corner, and, finally start to read that Trudeau book a friend gave me 10 years ago. I’m in.

  3. The problem with this study is pretty much analogous to the much promoted study of “Liberal Media Bias” by Groseclose and Milyo: They are ignoring the important questions what their methodology says and are trying to just get into popular science as it where. Never mind that the brain is already a complex organ, but there is this reductionist approach that fills this need to be able to categorize into a ‘just so story.’ For example, what was the source of this variation or what is the direction of the causality? What exactly is the nature of the behavioural consequences? The difficulty is that these authours talk about correlations with political preferences, but use very little of biological theory to explain the phenomenon sensu stricto .

    Consider the methodology: Brain scans of two politicians followed by digging up some scans and questionnaires of 90 students. This sort of thing is known as statistical fishing, since this data set was created after the fact.

    PZ Myers makes a good summation of this work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s