That Democrats and Republicans think differently is rather obvious to most.
But these opposing political supporters even think from different parts of the brain, a recent study found.
According to the recent (and appropriately titled) “Red Brain, Blue Brain” report, Democrats have higher activity in the left insula – the part of the brain that processes internal cues and emotions – when facing risks.
When Republicans think about risk, however, they have much higher activity in the right amygdale, the region of the brain associated with fear and exterior cues. As a result, these conservative-leaning voters “show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli,” the report concludes in its summary.
In other words, Democrats tend to think through challenging circumstances before responding, while Republicans are more prone to react impulsively and emotionally to outside influences.
The “Red Brain, Blue Brain” study was conducted by professors of medicine, psychology, psychiatry, biology and (of course) political science, and was released by the Public Library of Science on Feb. 13.
Eighty-two subjects who identified their political preferences participated in the research, which included MRI tests conducted as they participated in risk-taking mental exercises and games. Researchers confirmed subject party identification by voting records.
Although the study was just released, similar ones have circulated in recent years, and it seems the Republican Party has kept up with the topic, too.
For example, a 2008 study published in Science noted that conservatives have much quicker and stronger physiological reactions to sudden noises and alarming photos than do liberal Democrats, and establishes connotation between Republicans’ knee-jerk responses and their political beliefs of increased military spending and capital punishment.
Republican campaign platforms and political ads used that year and in following have been laden with such tactics, too. For example (and see slide show for images):
- The McCain campaign was often criticized for using “fear factors,” such as calling opponent Obama a “terrorist” and implying racial division in 2008.
- Hoping to build support for offshore drilling, the GOP falsely claimed that China was drilling immediately off the coast of Cuba, threatening U.S. oil supplies.
- Arguments against the Affordable Care Act from 2009 and 2010 told of “death panels.”
- Both Republican candidates and the National Rifle Association continue false claims that “Obama will take away your guns.”
- The “Obama is a Muslim” tactic has been continuously promoted, and at times in support of the juvenile “birth certificate” argument.
- In March 2010, an internal party presentation that was leaked to media showed how the Republican National Committee intended to promote the term “socialism” as a fear-inducing tactic in voter outreach and fundraising.
- Voters saw that fraudulent “socialism” tactic regularly used in 2012, too, and from Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, not to mention the presidential race.
- A tactic now known as “Medi-scare” – a false claim that the savings Obamacare produces for Medicare were actually cuts to its benefits, thus threatening the well-being of seniors – was widely used by many campaigns.
- And in last year’s elections, strongly religious voters were pelted with ads and other communications that frequently referred to “danger” and “threats” to “Judeo-Christian” values. Some were even told that a vote for President Obama was equivalent to “reject(ing) Jesus Christ” and would “put your own soul in jeopardy,” and were threatened with the claim that their votes would “be recorded in eternity.” (See video below)
Apparently, and as 2012 election results showed, the population of “blue brain” Americans seems to be dominant.
Another study associating political beliefs to specific operation of the brain was released recently, as well.
Last year, the Univ. of South Carolina released a neurological study of similar format but focusing on different areas of the brain. Similar to the “Red Brain, Blue Brain” results, this study found members of the opposing parties to have higher activity rates in different cranial areas.
Democrats have more activity in the part of the brain connected with wider social connections, such as friends and issues that affect more people and are inclusive of other parts of the world, the USC study concludes; on the other hand, Republicans are dominantly active in the brain region associated with tight social connections, such as family and their own personal properties and interests.