Conservative Brains Fear More – Liberal Brains Question More

I’ll be musing, and probably over-simplifying and over-generalizing, here. Some recent studies have suggested interesting brain differences between liberals and conservatives:

  • The amygdala, an area associated with fear-related behavior, is larger in conservatives, and
  • The anterior cingulate cortex, associated with error detection, is larger in liberals.





Conservatives are more likely to fear that something bad will happen: Obama (or, now, The Government, or The Kids, or The Left) is going to take away all the guns. Big amygdala -> more fear. (Apologies to Joe LeDoux for stating it this way.)  This is felt and expressed with certainty by people who identify themselves as members of the “patriot movement.”  Small anterior cingulate cortex -> less recognition that there might be an error.


Liberals lack this fear, and despite the view of the “patriots” neither do they fear guns. They might fear the proliferation of guns and the resulting easy access by irresponsible people, but not the guns as inanimate objects. Smaller amygdala -> less fear. The course of action that should be taken is, however, far less clear and certain to the liberals, with regard to the gun issue or any other complicated matter.  Larger anterior cingulate cortex -> more doubt.

My phrenological analysis is too simplistic and no doubt full of errors (my large anterior cingulate cortex talking). Nonetheless I think there is some value in considering neurologic underpinnings of political positions. 


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