Brain scan can tell if you hold conservative views

Brexit protesters

Political differences are hardwired into the fabric of people’s brains, according to a new study, and those with conservative or liberal views react differently to current issues like abortion or immigration.

The study conducted in the United States by Brown University found that those who share a particular political belief process information differently from those with opposing views.

A 2021 experiment led by Oriel FeldmanHall, an associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at the university’s Carney Institute of Brain Science, measured the brain activity of people who defined themselves as politically liberal or politically conservative while watching videos about culturally sensitive topics. issues like abortion and immigration.

The study showed that the brains of participants who shared political beliefs reacted in a similar way.

Based on this research, a study published February 1 in the journal Science Advances looked at how people with “synchronized neural fingerprints” interpreted different words. The group of 44 participants were asked to arrange words such as “abortion” and “immigration,” “American,” and “police” according to their perceived similarity. They were also asked to press a button to indicate whether the words shown to them were political or not.

Participants were also shown “neutrally redacted” news clips and a vice-presidential campaign debate on police brutality, during which their brain activity was measured. Based on measured brain activity, immigration was found to be the most polarizing topic for the participants, closely followed by abortion, while policing was the least polarizing topic.

The findings showed that people who shared political beliefs reacted similarly to the words, even without any political context.

‘neural fingerprint’

Professor FeldmanHall said: “The reason why two liberal brains sync up when watching a complicated video is partly due to the fact that each brain has neural fingerprints for political concepts or words that are highly aligned.”

He said the study helped “shed light on what happens in the brain that gives rise to political polarization.”

“You can think of it as the brain representing the word firing neurons in a certain way. It’s almost like a fingerprint, a neural imprint that encodes the concept of that word within the brain.”

The researchers said the findings could help develop understanding of how a controversial news channel triggers vastly different political views in its audience.

Professor FeldmanHall added: “The problem of political polarization cannot be dealt with on a superficial level.

“Our work showed that these polarized beliefs run deep and go all the way to how people experience a political word. Understanding this will influence how researchers think about potential interventions.”

Conservatism linked to fear in the brain

Previous studies have suggested that those with politically conservative views have larger brain areas connected to fear and anxiety than those with leftist views.

A study from University College London in 2010 found that those who are politically conservative have larger amygdala, the area of ​​the brain connected to emotion, and a smaller anterior cingulate, the area of ​​the brain associated with courage and a positive outlook.

The research, originally commissioned by actor Colin Firth, found that political differences could be rooted in people’s brain structures.

A 2013 study also found that American Republican voters had a more active right amygdala, a region involved in “fight-or-flight” defensive responses, while Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, a brain region associated with with social and self-awareness.

The team of British and American scientists were able to predict whether people voted Republican or Democrat with 83 percent accuracy simply by studying their brain activity.

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