SA: Conservative and Liberal Brains Might Have Some Real Differences

From Scientific American, Oct. 26, 2020:

* …conservatives desire security, predictability and authority more than liberals do, and liberals are more comfortable with novelty, nuance and complexity.

* Understanding the influence of partisanship on identity, even down to the level of neurons, “helps to explain why people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth,” argued psychologists Jay Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira, both then at New York University, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2018. In short, we derive our identities from both our individual characteristics, such as being a parent, and our group memberships, such as being a New Yorker or an American. These affiliations serve multiple social goals: they feed our need to belong and desire for closure and predictability, and they endorse our moral values. And our brain represents them much as it does other forms of social identity.

Among other things, partisan identity clouds memory.

* When they were shown a video of a political protest in a 2012 study, liberals and conservatives were more or less likely to favor calling police depending on their interpretation of the protest’s goal. If the objective was liberal (opposing the military barring openly gay people from service), the conservatives were more likely to want the cops. The opposite was true when participants thought it was a conservative protest (opposing an abortion clinic). The more strongly we identify with a party, the more likely we are to double down on our support for it. That tendency is exacerbated by rampant political misinformation and, too often, identity wins out over accuracy.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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