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The physical difference between liberals and conservatives?

Posted by: Emily McManus

Conveniently timed for last week’s premiere of Jonathan Haidt’s TEDTalk, “The Real Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives,” this report in Science suggests that libs and cons may sport a physiological difference, in their bodies’ reponses to unexpected stimuli. From the abstract:

… In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War …

Study author Douglas Oxley told the Washington Independent that the study does not imply there’s an inborn or genetic difference between people on the left and right, only that there is some correllation between physiological response and ideology, in a small test group of volunteers, in Nebraska. And yet, the WI writer makes the excellent point that:

it’s still a small step toward a greater understanding of our ideological divide, even if the answer doesn’t lie in our genes.

Watch Jonathan Haidt’s TEDTalk for more insight:

Comments (2)

  • Harry USA commented on Jan 13 2010

    This goof is just as prejudice as any bigot I have ever met. His lecture is silly and poorly researched. How could California not be part of ‘dumf***istan’ when they adopted a loose immigration policy which resulted in many of their hospitals closing because they couldn’t afford uncompensated health care from illegal immigrants? What state becomes a Sanctuary state without a plan to handle immigrants seeking a better life? What state is in the red to the tune of billions of dollars and yet has a wide open immigration policy till this day? What powerful intellectuals California Government Managers must be. At least in the eyes of this ‘teacher.’

    I am sorry for the students that wind up wasting their money on this ‘professor’s’ class.

  • Lo-Ra Dick commented on Sep 30 2008

    These 5 foundations of a moral society are extremely healthy for all communities. I found it interesting where the graphs converged. All of these indicated a slightly more conservative convergence point than liberal. The freedom to communicate and express individuality is actually sheltered in societies that function within more structured societies. It is very delicate how much or how fast the social fabric can be shifted to accommodate change before it is perceived that too many values of society are being lost. The polarization of the politics in our country is still reeling from the 60′s and 70′s. We will always be fighting for concepts for social justice, just remember when the common ideas of structured social societies are disregarded an unforeseen byproduct is even more closed mindedness and even less justice. I found Jonathan Haidt’s talk intuitive and wise: look what it takes to make a society, understand your perspective, and understand others. Include others, even though they are different from you. Gee maybe politics has a future after all.