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Political Bias Affects the Brain.

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Author Topic: Political Bias Affects the Brain.  (Read 57 times)
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« on: November 15, 2007, 05:24:43 pm »

Democrats and Republicans Both Adept at Ignoring Facts, Study Finds
By LiveScience Staff

posted: 24 January 2006 10:03 am ET

Democrats and Republicans alike are adept at making decisions without letting the facts get in the way, a new study shows.
And they get quite a rush from ignoring information that's contrary to their point of view.
Researchers asked staunch party members from both sides to evaluate information that threatened their preferred candidate prior to the 2004 Presidential election. The subjects' brains were monitored while they pondered.
The results were announced today.
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
Bias on both sides
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say.
Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.
"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."
Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning.
The tests involved pairs of statements by the candidates, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, that clearly contradicted each other. The test subjects were asked to consider and rate the discrepancy. Then they were presented with another statement that might explain away the contradiction. The scenario was repeated several times for each candidate.
The brain imaging revealed a consistent pattern. Both Republicans and Democrats consistently denied obvious contradictions for their own candidate but detected contradictions in the opposing candidate.
"The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Westen said.
Vote for Tom Hanks
Other relatively neutral candidates were introduced into the mix, such as the actor Tom Hanks. Importantly, both the Democrats and Republicans reacted to the contradictions of these characters in the same manner.
The findings could prove useful beyond the campaign trail.
"Everyone from executives and judges to scientists and politicians may reason to emotionally biased judgments when they have a vested interest in how to interpret 'the facts,'" Westen said.
The researchers will present the findings Saturday at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
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Luke Hodiak
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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2007, 10:09:49 pm »

I disagree with the study and wonder how they even phrased the question, even what questions they asked. Most people are drawn to a candidate because they share their political philosophy. They do not, however, have the expectation that those candidates are perfect.  So, while the study's expectation may be that a voter might throw their candidate under the bus if they have an obvious flaw, I would suggest that that logic is, in itself, a bit flawed.

I also disagree that both Dems and Repubs see things the same way. Repubs are more apt to be less forgiving when it comes to moral issues than Dems are.
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2007, 04:21:15 am »

A different type of person votes Republican.  They are more simple-minded, old-fashioned and tend to see things in black and white terms (i.e. good vs. evil, everyone they oppose, of course, being "evil").  They also don't tend to care about people and could care less about the poor.

I don't want to say that all Democrats are good, but we do tend to see more nuances in things and also usually weigh the consequences of each action, too, before we take it.  We are also less prone to have blind faith in anything. 
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2007, 11:27:53 am »

We are also less prone to have blind faith in anything.

Very true! I am not part of any political prefference yet I am finding that my whole financial situation is directly related to the way the country is being ran by republicans.
I can agree that in any president, problems with the they decide different things is questionable.
Yet, to forsake the working poor by increasing what we pay and giving the rich tax breaks is wrong....

This is why this generation of the working poor are so against republicans being elected.
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