Monday, April 18, 2011

Defective empathy genes II

In the original Defective empathy genes post, I described how Sigmund Spot’s early theorizing about defective empathy genes in conservatives was bearing some fruit in recent brain research:

Baron-Cohen [a neuro-science professor in England] believes that the principle cause of evil behavior is a lack – sometimes a stunning lack – of empathy.

frightened_eyesNow additional research suggests that conservatives have an overdeveloped section of the brain the responds to fear, the so-called “fear-al lobe.”

Liberals have more gray matter in a part of the brain associated with understanding complexity, while the conservative brain is bigger in the section related to processing fear, said the study on Thursday in Current Biology.

"We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala," the study said.

Here’s a little more from the study described in the article linked above:

People with a large amygdala [the fear-al lobe] are "more sensitive to disgust" and tend to "respond to threatening situations with more aggression than do liberals and are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions," the study said.

Liberals are linked to larger anterior cingulate cortexes, a region that "monitor(s) uncertainty and conflicts," it said.

"Thus, it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."

Apparently, this is even, um, apparent, to Oscar-winner Colin Firth:

Both of this year’s lead Oscar winners have published scientific papers on neuroscience. We’ve covered Natalie Portman’s work on frontal lobe development in children before, but it turns out Colin Firth has also just co-authored a study on structural brain differences in people with differing political views.

Update: The unstated implication of the post is that the research explains why all the race baiting and xenophobia works so well for the Republicans.

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