Friday, April 22, 2011


As I've suspected, there's an increasing amount of evidence that one is born on one side of the fence or another; predestined to be what they call conservative these days or Liberal. Yes, I'm very wary of these terms, since they mean what their enemies say they mean and have little to do with conserving anything real, or with the concept of reform, but still, there seem to be two kinds of minds and it's hard to account for it as merely the product of experience or study or intelligence.

Yes, I've joked about the far right not having a sense of humor that differs from meanness and I can think of all kinds of nominally Liberal reformers who would crumble if they ever smiled, but that impression isn't unique to me and I find it compelling. Some people find their view of reality far too serious, too dangerous and threatening to find much to laugh about, unless it's to laugh about the discomfiture and humiliation of an enemy.

That there are indeed two kinds of minds; two predispositions toward political, religious and sociological poles, is compelling, not that I would suggest using any evidence for it to dismiss arguments from either side. Sometimes, Conservative is actually conservative and Liberal is just Liberal and the truth may be neutral.

There may be important evidence for physical differences between those who feel threatened, respond to perceived threats with more aggression, more disgust and less tolerance for uncertainty. A taste for strongly held credos about morality and politics almost defines such people and we usually call them conservatives. A distaste for absolute moral judgments; for saying something is "just wrong" without considering the results defines those we want to call Liberals.

"Liberal Brains" seem more tolerant of uncertainty than conservatives according to a study of brain scans of 90 volunteers at University College London. Brain scans revealed, or so it's claimed, physical differences
"Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation, our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure."
says researcher Ryota Kanai.
"People with a large amygdala are "more sensitive to disgust" and tend to "respond to threatening situations with more aggression than do liberals and are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions. Liberals are linked to larger anterior cingulate cortexes, a region that "monitor(s) uncertainty and conflicts"
So is this cause or effect? Are these findings real? Maybe it's too soon to tell and I can certainly identify some traits that would make me more conservative than the stereotypical Liberal. What I am is for others to say, but I certainly find fault in many standard Liberal shibboleths, even if I'm intolerant of certainty and that includes being certain that the study means anything.

"Our findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty"
says the report and that feels right, even if many wrong things feel right. I'm just not afraid of the conservative bogeymen like net neutrality, graduated income tax, single payer health programs or Social Security. I am however concerned about the danger of inflexible creeds that seem to need a great deal of misplaced faith to follow and a government that follows such things without regard to the will of the electorate, the lessons of history or even the demands of common decency. I believe in uncertainty.

So is my anterior cingulate cortex bigger or smaller and does size matter? It's not as though I'm free of fear, I just fear the fearful and the things they do.


Baltazar said...

I think it's terrain that guides things,maybe thru the 'brain'

d nova said...

that ol' mygdala mus' grow bigger in some folk n shrink in others, cuz i know a few that changed sides.

is it possible to gain or lose tolerance for uncertainty?

Capt. Fogg said...

I'm not sure and I can't tolerate that.