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Brains and politics

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  • Brains and politics

    An interesting article in The Conversation from a few days ago. We can all speculate what sorts of brains each of us possesses! There is also the indication, albeit from a very small sample, that those who are likely to be receptive to authoritarianism or extremism show signs of brain damage!

    That reminds me of Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You when Scott suddenly becomes a Right Wing Republican much to the concern of his liberal Democrat father, but it transpires that one of his arteries had a temporary blockage and he returns to his former tolerant self much to his family's relief.

    In all seriousness, the implications for manipulation particularly in political advertising , are another cause for concern.

    A few years ago, the leader of Mexico’s PRI party told the New York Times that he, “would stick to tried and trusted campaign tools, like polls and political intuition”, and rely on “the old-fashioned way” to win the country’s election.

    His party had been caught using neuroscience to gauge voters’ opinions about their candidate for the presidency and the party was embarrassed. Subsequently, we know from other sources the party carried on using neuroscience techniques. Someone even described their approach as “the new way to win elections”.

    The approach is called neuropolitics and uses brain science to understand our politics. It applies the insights of neurology to explain why we take part in protests, vote for particular parties and even why we lie about our true feelings in opinion polls, potentially skewing the results to give the public a false impression of who is going to win.

    I studied neuroscience before I gained a doctorate in political science. Back then the study of the brain was a utopian strain of research, but things have changed. And this has political implications. The Mexican case is one example of politicians exploiting neuroscience to their electoral advantage, but there are many others, which I write about in my new book The Political Brain.

    t might seem like science fiction. But it is a fact. We already know a lot about how our brains influence our political beliefs and reveal our political views. Here are just four things your brain can reveal about your politics – and believe me, there are plenty more.

    1. Which politicians you like

    Let’s start with the basics. Advances in social neuroscience mean that we can identify the parts of the brain that get activated when you watch political advertisements – and a host of other things. We can do this because of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI scans).

    When we think, the brain needs oxygen. This oxygen is carried around with blood. Because blood contains iron, which is magnetic, it shows up in a magnetic scanner. So, if I see photos of a person in distress, more blood will flow to an area on the side of the brain called insula.

    To take an example, when we want to buy something – or when we like a particular election candidate – we activate a part of the brain that is called the ventral striatum. It is part of the so-called basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is associated with rewards.

    So, if your brain is activated when you see candidate A, it is a cue that you will vote for him or her.

    This also works at the microlevel. When we like something, the area is bombarded with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When we see photos or films of a candidate we like, there is more dopamine in the ventral striatum.

    2. If you’re centre-left

    We need to be cautious because the brain is a complex machine, and no single area is responsible for how we think. But some areas are associated with political thinking.

    A study – co-written by actor Colin Firth – found that “greater liberalism [left-wing thinking] was associated with increased grey matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex”. This part of the brain is associated with empathy. So, maybe this research proves that those on the left are more empathetic..

    We should perhaps add that The King’s Speech, Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’ Diary star was guest editing the BBC radio programme Today when he commissioned researchers to carry out the study. He doesn’t have a secret second career as a neuroscientist, though the work he proposed is legitimate science that has been through rigorous peer review and published in a top biology journal.

    3. If you’re centre-right

    That was the leftwing brain. What about conservatives or the centre-right? Well, individuals of this persuasion tend to be sceptical of change and cautious when they make choices. The brain region associated with these traits is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, on the topside of the brain.

    Sure enough, researchers found that this part was activated when subjects were exposed to video clips with political messages or images of people living alternative lifestyles – something that perhaps suggests a negative response to these lifestyles.

    4. If you’re receptive to authoritarianism

    So far we have looked at moderate leftists and moderate conservatives, but some people take more extreme positions. Some describe themselves as religious fundamentalists and are willing to use violence to stop abortion, for example. Others self-identify with the far right of the political spectrum.

    A small study of these people found that their brains – when under the fMRI scanner – show signs of damage to the so-called ventro-medial prefrontal cortex. This is an area that is associated with social intelligence and tolerance.

    It is tempting to draw conclusions, but it should be added that those with extreme views on both the far right and the far left show activation of the amygdala when they are shown clips of political opponents. Amygdala is the part of the brain that kicks in if we are in mortal danger, such as when we see a snake.

    The predicting brain

    Some might find this scary. Maybe it is. Whatever you think, we already know that we can predict ideology with up to 85% accuracy.

    Neuropolitics is certainly weird, and perhaps even worrying but when used to in pure research, it opens the prospect of combining the natural sciences with the moral sciences. A bit like the philosopher David Hume dreamed of doing in the 18th century, when he endeavoured to “introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects”, we too can combine science and philosophy.

    You might choose to ignore it. But, it is already being used in the real world of political advertising. It is no longer fiction. when it is abused, it can be dangerous. That’s why we need to talk about it.




    "It ain't necessarily so
    The things that you're liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain't necessarily so
    ."

    Sportin' Life
    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

  • #2
    Source?


    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Sparko View Post
      Source?
      Alright now, who is responsible for the prefrontal cortex damage done to the brains of all those Trump supporters?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Sparko View Post
        Source?
        https://theconversation.com/your-bra...olitics-226175
        "It ain't necessarily so
        The things that you're liable
        To read in the Bible
        It ain't necessarily so
        ."

        Sportin' Life
        Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JimL View Post

          Alright now, who is responsible for the prefrontal cortex damage done to the brains of all those Trump supporters?
          I expected a reply along those lines. Perhaps they were all dropped on their heads as babies.

          Seriously, it would be interesting to put some of these Trump supporters under an fMRI scanner and see what their brains looked like. Ditto some of those who ardently endorse Putin, Orbán, or Milei.
          "It ain't necessarily so
          The things that you're liable
          To read in the Bible
          It ain't necessarily so
          ."

          Sportin' Life
          Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

          Comment


          • #6
            And?
            Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
            But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
            Than a fool in the eyes of God


            From "Fools Gold" by Petra

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
              And?
              To whom was that remark addressed?
              "It ain't necessarily so
              The things that you're liable
              To read in the Bible
              It ain't necessarily so
              ."

              Sportin' Life
              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                I expected a reply along those lines. Perhaps they were all dropped on their heads as babies.

                Seriously, it would be interesting to put some of these Trump supporters under an fMRI scanner and see what their brains looked like. Ditto some of those who ardently endorse Putin, Orbán, or Milei.
                The first ones needing testing are those who hold up signs with "LGBTQ for Palestine" scrawled on it. That's like chickens holding a sign saying "Chickens for KFC."

                Everyone is still waiting for old Joe to take a simple cognitive test. The ones that are so easy that a child in kindergarten can pass them. So far, he refuses to do so.

                I'm always still in trouble again

                "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                  Everyone is still waiting for old Joe to take a simple cognitive test. The ones that are so easy that a child in kindergarten can pass them. So far, he refuses to do so.
                  The White House physician made a point of not conducting a cognitive test during Joe's recent physical.
                  Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
                  But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
                  Than a fool in the eyes of God


                  From "Fools Gold" by Petra

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                    I expected a reply along those lines. Perhaps they were all dropped on their heads as babies.

                    Seriously, it would be interesting to put some of these Trump supporters under an fMRI scanner and see what their brains looked like. Ditto some of those who ardently endorse Putin, Orbán, or Milei.
                    Not to mention Bolsanaro the Authoritarian who attempted a coup in Brazil and just ran of to Orban and Hungary for asylum in order to avoid his immanent arrest in Brazil.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm always looking for disclosed signs of bias in political articles like these. Like this:

                      So far we have looked at moderate leftists and moderate conservatives, but some people take more extreme positions. Some describe themselves as religious fundamentalists and are willing to use violence to stop abortion, for example. Others self-identify with the far right of the political spectrum.


                      You'll notice he didn't list the far left of the spectrum when describing "extreme positions".

                      IMO, there is no such thing as a truly non-partisan political study. Anyone motivated to do such a study is undoubtedly a political person, in that he/she is politically motivated to study some facet of political persuasion.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                        The first ones needing testing are those who hold up signs with "LGBTQ for Palestine" scrawled on it. That's like chickens holding a sign saying "Chickens for KFC."

                        Everyone is still waiting for old Joe to take a simple cognitive test. The ones that are so easy that a child in kindergarten can pass them. So far, he refuses to do so.
                        I suggest you actually listen to the incomprehensible word salad that endlessly spews from out of your treasonous and demented ex-presidents mouth before accusing Biden who not only kicked his butt in the election, but kicked Republican butts in passing his policies as well while turning the mess of an economy that he inherited into the booming recovery it is now. You dumb rogue!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JimL View Post

                          Not to mention Bolsanaro the Authoritarian who attempted a coup in Brazil and just ran of to Orban and Hungary for asylum in order to avoid his immanent arrest in Brazil.
                          I agree and the article mentioned religious fundamentalists and I would include those from all religions.
                          "It ain't necessarily so
                          The things that you're liable
                          To read in the Bible
                          It ain't necessarily so
                          ."

                          Sportin' Life
                          Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ronson View Post
                            I'm always looking for disclosed signs of bias in political articles like these. Like this:

                            So far we have looked at moderate leftists and moderate conservatives, but some people take more extreme positions. Some describe themselves as religious fundamentalists and are willing to use violence to stop abortion, for example. Others self-identify with the far right of the political spectrum.
                            The article did not mention fundamentalist or extremist Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus either. However, in the present world the authoritarian political figures that get elected are not from the extreme Left.

                            "It ain't necessarily so
                            The things that you're liable
                            To read in the Bible
                            It ain't necessarily so
                            ."

                            Sportin' Life
                            Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                              The article did not mention fundamentalist or extremist Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus either. However, in the present world the authoritarian political figures that get elected are not from the extreme Left.
                              You need to stay focused. It was describing "extreme positions", first commenting about religious violence and then listing the "far right" as extreme - but not the far left.

                              As far as authoritarian leftists, we need look no further than Biden ignoring the SCOTUS and Trudeau freezing bank accounts.

                              I get it that you want to defend this article because it was obviously written by someone who leans left, so it will appeal to you on a subliminal level.

                              Comment

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