Thursday, September 13, 2007

A foolish consistency is hardwired into conservative minds

Nature Neuroscience reports on some interesting findings by some researchers who have taken another look into the neurological differences between liberal and conservative people. In their article, Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism, the researchers (Amonio, Jost, Master and Yee)say that "greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity."

There idea was that "conflict monitoring," which they defined as a general mechanism for detecting one's habitual response tendency, could be tested by a Go/No-Go task.

In the Go/No-Go task used in our study, participants must quickly respond to a frequently presented Go stimulus, such that the 'Go' response becomes habitual. However, on a small proportion of trials, a No-Go stimulus appears, signaling that one's habitual response should be withheld. Hence, a No-Go stimulus conflicts with the prepotent Go response tendency.

In a nutshell, the researchers hypothesize that response conflicts are associated and detectable within a specific area of the brain. Their results indicate that a liberal political orientation was strongly correlated to greater conflict-related neural activity when response inhibition was required (e.g., a "No-Go").

Those with an inherent bent towards "staying the course" show little conflict-related neural activity.

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