Brain tomography distinguishes liberal from conservative

(ORDO NEWS) — Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, which was performed while the participants were performing certain tasks or resting, made it possible to accurately predict a person’s political beliefs. This once again confirmed that party affiliation has “biological roots”.

A team of political scientists, psychiatrists and psychologists from Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and New York University (USA) conducted the largest study of its kind using the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain (fMRI), which helped to accurately predict whether a person was a conservative or a liberal.

Political ideology is a system of ideas about the correct structure of society and how it can be achieved, as well as views on political life, reflecting the interests, ideals and moods of people.

This concept is multidimensional, but most often it is conditionally divided into “left” and “right”: liberalism and conservatism.

The distribution of preferences in this field among the inhabitants of a particular country (mostly democratic) determines its social, economic and environmental policy, affecting many elements of society.

Many previous works have identified demographic patterns associated with political orientation and helped to understand how it affects people’s behavior.

Subsequently, scientists decided to look for the roots of political views in the brain itself, even a field of research appeared, which they called political neuroscience. It turned out that there are differences in fundamental cognitive and emotional processes between liberals and conservatives.

The sample for the new study, which of course relied on earlier work, was 174 healthy young adults participating in the Ohio State University Wellbeing Project (mean age 21.4 years, 61 men and 113 women).

Each subject’s brain was scanned using functional MRI for an hour and a half while they performed eight tasks or simply did nothing.

So, in one of the tasks, volunteers were shown pictures of people with neutral, happy, sad and frightened faces. The second was aimed at episodic memory, and the third involved rewards: participants could win or lose money depending on how quickly they pressed the button.

In addition, everyone filled out a questionnaire that included questions about age, education level, income, parents, political affiliation, hometown and place of residence. Subjects were asked to rate on a six-point scale whether they considered themselves liberals or conservatives.

The scientists then used these covariates to build predictive models of political ideology, which they then compared with fMRI results. The scans were analyzed using artificial intelligence and the resources of the Ohio Supercomputing Center.

“We have shown that the functional connectivity of the brain (the effect that the activity of one group of neurons has on the activity of another distinct group of neurons.

Reveals noticeable and distinctive features among liberals and conservatives, and these patterns can be identified with high accuracy using modern artificial intelligence methods,” the researchers noted.

Tasks on empathy, reward, and memory turned out to be the most significant predictors of political ideology, but in general, all characteristics of functional connection in all tasks, including the state of rest, correlated with it.

The reward task was able to detect far-left or far-right adherents, and activation of the amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus, and hippocampus was most strongly associated with political affiliation.

Although scientists have not been able to establish a causal relationship (this will be the reason for further research), their results confirm that the biological and neurological roots of political views run much deeper than previously thought.


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