The Political Brain by Steve Johnson [NYT Magazine]

by Limbic on August 27, 2004

Do Liberals think more emotionally? Will political neuroscience end elections? Is political affiliation based on simple kinship detection?

If amygdala activity is a reliable indication of emotional response, a fascinating possibility opens up: turning Armey’s muddled poetry into a testable hypothesis. Do liberals ”think” with their limbic system more than conservatives do? As it happens, some early research suggests that Armey might have been on to something after all.

As The Times reported not long ago, a team of U.C.L.A. researchers analyzed the neural activity of Republicans and Democrats as they viewed a series of images from campaign ads. And the early data suggested that the most salient predictor of a ”Democrat brain” was amygdala activity responding to certain images of violence: either the Bush ads that featured shots of a smoldering ground zero or the famous ”Daisy” ad from Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 campaign that ends with a mushroom cloud. Such brain activity indicates a kind of gut response, operating below the level of conscious control. MORE

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