Are there left-wing and right-wing brains?

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work according to an article in the Los Angeles Times

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

Read it all here

Perhaps this might explain why people have different preferences for the reading of Scripture.

Comments (1)

After years of waking up to my wife reading in bed, or sometimes quietly praying, and occasionally recognizing that she was hoping I'd wake up enough to talk, and, I began to give thanks for what my own dear insomniac taught me about the insomniacs among our primordial ancestors. I should add, this was also after years of learning from what she'd read while I was asleep, of feeling grateful for her prayers, and occasionally of welcoming a rich conversation at 2 a.m.,


Sometimes, after a wonderful conversation when I just can't stay awake any longer, my wife still apologizes for waking me up. And before I go back to sleep I usually remind her that it just might be thanks to the insomniacs that the human race survived at all. How many times did a sleepless child, woman or man waken a tribe of our ancestors just in time for hunters to rise and ward off a marauding predator?

I suspect something like may also be true of this research about neurologically inherited conservatism and liberalism, that what we think of as different political and religious interpretations and approaches may rest on something so foundational that we can observe it in measurably different impulses in thought and action?

The end of the full article hints at something like my insomniac theory - "The tendency of conservatives to block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation."

Reading the whole article, it’s not surprising to read that,
"...a meeting of the minds between conservatives and liberals looked difficult given the study results." We’re experiencing that in our church and in our nation.

But it gets interesting and (and I get theological) when the David Amodio, the researcher asks,
"Does this mean liberals and conservatives are never going to agree?"

To me discovering a biological basis for a difference in the very structure of our brains that gives "one reason why they tend not to get along," just might be evidence of another of good God's good gifts in making of human diversity and offering us each other in fellowship and communion. Or at least it becomes a good gift whenever we love one each other enough to accept a permanent listening process between liberals and conservatives, those who seize on pattern and those who look for variation.

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