Frightened Brain, Compassionate Brain Dichotomy

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The Republican Booth at the Wisconsin State Fair was a depressing example of how the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck fear mongering has gained control of the Republican Party in Wisconsin. As a seven decade resident of Wisconsin I continue to be amazed by the by the erosion of the Republican Party.

These were some of messages on the shirts for sale at the Republican Booth



A silhouette of an assault rifle with the following message;


How can out neighbors be so hateful? Recent scientific research has shown that the brains of conservative voters are different from the brains of liberal voters. The cause and effect have not been determined. That is, does the brain become a certain way because the person is a liberal (or conservative). Or is the person a liberal (or conservative) because his or her brain is a certain way?

Here are some brief summaries of scientific research that document these differences.

A Recent study by researchers from New York University (NYU) titled; “Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism” by Yee, Amodio, Jost, and Master tested the hypothesis that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles while liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. These researchers found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern. In other words, liberals are more flexible.



An intriguing study from University College London done in 2010 by Kanai, Fielden, Firth and Rees found that political liberalism and conservatism were correlated with brain structure.



Liberalism was associated with a larger gray matter volume of the anterior cingulate cortex.


Note: The anterior cingulate cortex appears to play a role in a wide variety of autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy, impulse control and emotion.



This explains why the message on the shirt at the Democratic Booth was; LOVE ALL EQUALLY



Conservatism was associated with increased right amygdala size.


Note: The amygdala a more primative part of the brain and are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medical temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory and emotional reactions, the amygdala are a part of the limbic system. The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that's activated during states of fear and anxiety. Listen to Milwaukee's conservative talk radio and you too will become fearful and anxious.



Another study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which self-identified liberals and conservatives were shown images – apolitical images – that were intended to elicit different emotions. They were shown images that caused fear and disgust -- a spider crawling on a person's face, maggots in an open wound -- but they were also shown images that made you feel happy: a smiling child, a bunny rabbit.” The researchers noted two differences between the groups. The researchers studied their subjects' reactions by tracking their eye movements and monitoring their “skin conductivity” – a measure of one's autonomic nervous system's reaction to stimuli.


Conservatives showed much stronger skin responses to negative images, compared with the positive ones. Liberals showed the opposite. And when the scientists turned to studying eye gaze or "attentional" patterns, they found that conservatives looked much more quickly at negative or threatening images, and [then] spent more time fixating on them.


It is disturbing enough to know that these folks, our neighbors, feel this way. But it is upsetting to know that their fears are deliberately being kept alive in order to divide and conquer our state so that a few very rich can continue to gain at the expense of the 99%.