Monday, September 10, 2007

Brain Science Isn't Rocket Surgery

The point of this story in the LA Times is that conservatives and liberals actually have brains that function differently. The story is really interesting and you should read it. But I'll choose to simply make a snarky observation about this passage.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

So liberals see the letter "W" and their brain tells them something is amiss while conservatives see "W" and everything seems equally right with the world. Is this simply a coincidental hilarity? Maybe the scientists should pick a less loaded letter.

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