Have your political views been predetermined by your brain structure or has your brain structure changed as a result of your views? Is it possible that you were born with right or left leanings? A fascinating new study conducted by scientists at UniversityÂ College London should spark not only interesting political debate, but raise some questions about nature versus nurture as well.
Colin Firth commissioned this study and he says he did so as “fairly frivolous exercise.” The British actor says he wanted to find out what was biologically wrong with people who disagree with him.
The University College London scientists scanned the brains of 90 students and those of both a conservative and liberal member of Parliament. They found that individuals with conservative tendencies have a largerÂ amygdala. This is the region of the brain though to be responsible for emotions like fear. ThisÂ region in the center of the brain was recently the subject of news articles about a woman who couldn’t experience fear because her amygdala was damaged. It would be interesting to know what her political views are.
Scientists also discovered that the area at the front of the brain known asÂ anterior cingulate was smaller in the brains of conservative thinkers. This area is thought to be responsible for courage and optimism.
Does this mean that conservative views are based on feelings of fear and pessimism? Do conservatives have a greater fear of terrorist attacks or monetary crises than their liberal neighbors? Does this mean that conservatives lack courage or does it mean that conservatives have brain characteristics that lead them to land the on the side of caution?
This study only looked at adult brains. Imagine if brain scans of children could predict future political leanings. If nature, rather than nurture, is the determiner, that thought might have brought some comfort to the liberal parents on the old sitcom, Family Ties, who often looked at conservative son, Alex P. Keaton, and wondered where they’d gone wrong.