Sunday, September 9, 2007

Liberal and Conservative Brains

Okay, I have taken a bit of a break. I am back now. Refreshed. Reinvigerated. Ready to go.

The Los Angeles Times has an article, Brain Study Finds Political Divide reporting on a study that relates differences in political attitudes to differences in brain structure.

I find the story amusing. My immediate reaction to this startling discovery is . . .

Well, duh!

It is as if the researchers (or at least those who wrote the article) began with the assumption that two people with precisely identical brain structures can engage in different behavior. If they are going to behave differently then of course there is a physical difference underlying it.

The specific test involved showing students a series of letters (either M or W) with instructions to press a button if they saw an M. M's showed up 4 times more often than W, so students could get into a habit of pressing the button.

Conservatives fell into habits and made more mistakes than liberals. Liberals were (according to the study) better able to take in new information and give the appropriate response, while conservatives were less able to process new information.

It sounds like we should chalk one up for the liberals.

Except, this willingness to take in new information included an eagerness to accept a wide range of (to put it bluntly) wacky ideas such as communism, post-modernism, and 'new age' medicines. In many cases, the person who goes with each new fad that comes along is not necessarily a model of perfect intellectual power.

The researchers made these distinctions.

However, I want to suggest another research study. I am wondering how many people - on both sides of the political spectrum - who read an article like this will immediately 'fit the intelligence to the policy'. By this I mean they immediately conclude that the 'right' interpretation is the interpretaiton they like.

It is a dangerous habit to get into, and one people need to be warned not to make.

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