If you’re like me, you wonder why so many people – election after election – vote against their own self-interest, putting into power right-wing conservatives who only care about the wealthy and the powerful. Well, neuroscience may have discovered a partial answer to explain that puzzling behavior. Like all premises in science, this one will be rigorously tested by further research.
Scientists at University College London found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the center of the brain associated with anxiety and emotions, especially fear. Plus, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and optimism This small experiment didn’t try to explain whether the subjects’ brains had been born that way or had developed through experience.
Prof Geraint Rees, who led the research, said: “We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that…could predict political attitude.
That research appears to agree with a much larger UC San Diego and Harvard University study which showed that some people are born with a “liberal gene” that makes people more likely to accept change and less conventional political views. Those with that gene also seemed to have more friends and to have been be more socially adept in adolescence. According to the scientists, “Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4,” plus how many friends you had during high school.
Who knows? Perhaps Ken Cuccinelli and his ilk are simply scaredy cats who didn’t have many friends in high school. Or…maybe he’s just a nut.
And…Happy New year!