THE POLITICAL BRAIN. The LA Times reports on a study which compared the way the brains of supposed liberals and conservatives work:
Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.
Scientists at New York University and UCLA showed through a simple experiment to be reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.
Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.
The "everyday decision" this quote refers to is the ability to differentiate between the letters M and W flashing on your computer screen, and liberals tended to do better in this.
Liberals are also more skeptical, I suspect. They even sometimes write criticisms of studies that appear to favor them, and the criticism this time has to do with that first sentence in the quote: "Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work." Are we quite sure that the "because of" is correct? This supposes that the "liberal brain" works differently from the "conservative brain" and that these differences cause people to become either liberals or conservatives.
Perhaps that is the correct interpretation. Or perhaps the real interpretation is something much more complicated, more akin to the way episodes of depression can change the brain so that it works differently after a depressive episode than before? Or could it be that the observed correlation is the result of some type of a complicated interplay between nature and nurture? And in any case, do the observed differences in how the brains function tell us anything about the permanence of such differences or about our ability to affect them?