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Science! Your Politicals Leanings Are All In Your Head

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By Ryan Rattanni on January 3, 2011

Let’s face it, political debates can pass the time, but they’re more about ego than actually gaining perspective. As enticing the possibility of intellectually pwning the guy in front of you at the supermarket may be, there’s a certain Catch-22 about talking politics.

Either you debate someone with similar political convictions, making the whole thing sort of superfluous; or, you debate someone from the “dark side” and all your brilliant, well thought-out arguments seem to fall on deaf ears. Quickly, the conversation devolves into an exchange of ad hoc attacks and petty insults. “How can you not see the logic in this? Were you dropped on your head as a child?” Not surprisingly, science may now offer us some explanation for the disconnect. Science FTW!

Scientists at University College London are claiming to have discovered significant differences between the brains of conservatives and liberals. The study — due to be published next year — examined 92 individuals in the U.K., including 2 members of Parliament. Researchers concluded that there are significant differences in size between liberals and conservatives in two areas of the brain: the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex.

The amygdala is responsible for reflexive impulses, including anxiety and fear. Participants with more conservative tendencies were found to have larger amygdalae than liberals, suggesting a greater capacity for paranoia.

The anterior cingulate cortex plays a role in optimism and courage. Scientists found that the more liberal-minded individuals included in the study had larger anterior cingulate cortexes than the conservative participants. Conclude from that what you will.

“It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude,” said Professor Geraint Rees, lead scientist on the project.

So the next time your conservative opponent employs a bullshit argument entirely based on fear, such as the slippery slope argument, claiming gay marriage is going to lead to people marrying dogs, tables or clocks, know that underneath the ignorance and bigotry is the slight nudging of biological determinism.

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