Darren Schreiber, a political neuroscientist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, first performed brain scans on 82 people participating in a risky gambling task, one in which holding out for more money increases your possible rewards, but also your possible losses. Later, cross-referencing the findings with the participants’ publicly available political party registration information, Schreiber noticed something astonishing: Republicans, when they took the same gambling risk, were activating a different part of the brain than Democrats.

Republicans were using the right amygdala, the center of the brain’s threat response system. Democrats, in contrast, were using the insula, involved in internal monitoring of one’s feelings. Amazingly, Schreiber and his colleagues write that this test predicted 82.9 percent of the study subjects’ political party choices — considerably better, they note, than a simple model that predicts your political party affiliation based on the affiliation of your parents.

When you consider what hereditarian realism makes of “the affiliation of your parents” (with its massive confounding effect when brought into comparison with neurological characteristics) the level of correlation looks even more preposterous.

(The insula sounds like an intrinsically leftist neurological structure, I mean — does ‘feels monitoring’ really count as doing anything? Radical insulectomy in exchange for blockchain credits and Neocameral residency privileges has to be worth a test.)


December 4, 2015admin 27 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations


27 Responses to this entry

  • TheDividualist Says:

    But of course Wiki says the insular cortex does a lot of other things as well. Blood pressure, not pissing yourself, hand-eye coordination, swallowing, speech, bowels, and so on.

    But this seems to be the most relevant:

    “A number of functional brain imaging studies have shown that the insular cortex is activated when drug abusers are exposed to environmental cues that trigger cravings. ”

    Are liberals risk-addicts, sort of gambling addicts?


    Yvjrolu Reply:

    I’d like to test if they’re signalling addicts.


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 11:17 am Reply | Quote
  • Mark Citadel Says:

    When Conservatives make the claim ‘Liberalism is a mental disorder’, they aren’t far off. Its a virus of the spiritual order, introduced at the end of the last epoch, and infecting well over half the West’s population, causing them to think with a personal hugbox. I dont think many people were thinking with the insula in 1098.


    John Hannon Reply:

    Likewise certain swivel-eyed liberal types seem to consider conservatives mentally deficient in the empathy department – some even proposing a remedy in the form of medically prescribed empathogens / entheogens.


    Thales Reply:

    The opposite is likely more true: right-wingers display empathy tempered with some kind of ethos. Lefties either possess unrestrained empathy or no empathy at all and thus go overboard with the sociopathic mimicry.


    Mark Citadel Reply:

    Liberals run empathy but only on certain approved empathetic characters. They have absolutely no empathy for girls raped by Muslim immigrants for example, but much empathy for girls who feel raped when white men brush by them at a frat party. The Liberal feels huge empathy when he sees a dolphin being harpooned in a Japanese bay, but no empathy when he sees the dismembered corpse of a human child.

    The empathy is selective, running on a kind of operating system that selects out for politically useful victimhood. Because this operating system is rather ubiquitous, Conservatives consistently lose arguments, even if their actual logic is superior.

    Take same-sex marriage for example. For all the Liberal smugness, Conservative arguments against it were logically quite strong, but they were empathetic to the wrong targets (religious institutions who could be compelled to go against conscience, children who would not have mothers and fathers, society in general, etc.), and so appeared weak. Where the Reactionary diverges is that he is willing to point out that those who we *must* be empathetic towards do not deserve some kind of special consideration, and the Liberal arguments thereto, often centering around history (and even more often revisionist history) are weak. The Liberal will assume that past criminalization of same-sex acts was an injustice, and the Conservative will concede this point automatically, and in doing so will seal his eventual argumentative defeat.

    Since he rejects the baseline ‘Enlightenment’ assumptions of the Liberal, the Reactionary is in fact uniquely places to call out the Liberal on his far-reaching bullshit. It isn’t a lack of empathy, it’s just empathy not applied specially to the preferred Liberal sainted groups.

    Orthodox Reply:

    Liberals think conservatives are mentally deficient because conservatives run a logic test on their empathy.


    John Hannon Reply:

    Good responses.
    BTW just in case you think I’m making this up, just check out the “Western world’s foremost authority on Tibetan Buddhism” from around 46 minutes –

    “DMT suppositories for the real hard cases”

    What a nut.

    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 11:35 am Reply | Quote
  • Mike Says:

    That politics is highly neurological isn’t a new claim – remember the DRD4 thing years ago?

    They should check if this thing is genetic too.


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 12:23 pm Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    About hereditary politics – what about that stuff that if you aren’t a leftie at 20 you have no heart and if you aren’t a rightie at 40 you have no brain? Some form of idealism seems to be a very natural thing for the young brain. But of course it happens that your particular sort of youthful idealism is one that officially registers on the right – Misesian stuff, or religious fanaticism.

    Oh and of course young people love to rebel/signal against the politics of their parents. Right now it is our turn to enjoy that: at least some of YRx (like the Carlyle Club election posters) is rebelling against Boomer liberal parents?


    frank Reply:

    Young minds don’t have a large data set of real life experiences to draw from, so they necessarily rely on idealistic models of the real world, like “all men are more or less created equal”. It makes sense to idealize and universalize when you have very limited information. The problem with adult liberals is that they don’t outgrow their naive models about reality either because they don’t have the capacity (IQ, intellectual honesty etc) to do so, or they never leave their “safe spaces” (academia, media, government jobs).


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 1:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thrasymachus Says:

    My mother came from a middle-class family in the Midwest, and through her life adopted the politics that were prestigious- first Republican, then Democratic. My father came from a working class family and his politics have always been survival oriented- New Deal liberalism all the way.

    I would have been a conservative Democrat in the 1950’s, but post-1960’s survival politics for whites was Republican. Up until they started pushing amnesty so hard.


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 3:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Neuro-Politics | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 3:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Speaking of Neuro-Politics…Nouriel Roubini notices the Barbarians are within the Eloi-Union’s gates…



    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 4:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Gentile Ben Says:

    In my experience the most selfish and untrustworthy people are the most ostentatiously empathetic/Leftoid/goodwhite. Think of Rousseau depositing his children in orphanages.


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 4:41 pm Reply | Quote
  • Al Fin Says:

    Here is the original study from PLoS One 13 Feb 2013.

    60 Democrats and 22 Republicans were studied. Mean age of Dems was 22 and mean age of Repubs was 28 years. Functional MRI was used.

    There was significant overlap in responses between Dems and Repubs for every response tha was measured. Judging by the methodology and analysis utilised, the study appears to be a poorly designed fishing expedition. Exactly what you might expect from a researcher who bills himself as a “political neuroscientist.”

    There is no indication that the researchers attempted to control for the confounding effect of age on brain development. In fact, there are significant differences between 20 year old brains and 30 year old brains.

    Good god! A “political neuroscientist?”


    Alrenous Reply:

    To be fair, most neuroscientists are really politicians, but don’t admit it.


    Seth Reply:

    Haven’t looked at the study yet, but significant overlap is not necessarily a fatal strike against a feature that has predictive value.

    When I run naive Bayes classifiers on text corpora (nerdy academic research) and the classifier returns the most valuable features for predicting text types (like a Tweet written by a male or a female), there will obviously be overlap between the text types’ usage of any given predictable feature . . . yet it will remain a feature with predictive value nonetheless, and is therefore indicative (in a necessary but not sufficient sense) of deep difference.


    nydwracu Reply:

    60 Democrats and 22 Republicans were studied.

    Go directly to circular filing cabinet. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.


    Izak Reply:

    Yeah, you can smell the horse-manure halfway through reading the OP. This is a good blog, but I’m pretty put off by admin’s readiness to subscribe to this kind of stuff, which also includes the pseudo-scientific quackery of Anonymous Conservative.


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    AC, like Kevin MacDonald, is better read as polemic than as science although, granted, both use science as a rhetorical device, whether for good or ill (Franz Boas was allowed to do it, why can’t rightists? Leftists are to be permitted to use any rhetorical devices at their disposal, while conservatives must fight with one hand behind their backs? This is a very high-minded, perhaps honourable position to take, but not ultimately a very pragmatic one). The sloppiness of the exposition by Molyjeux and Whittle in that podcast make clear that the ‘sciencey’ aspects of it are not very meaningful.

    As far as ‘horse manure’ goes it isn’t really necessary to read the article – anyone claiming to be a ‘political scientist’ in a world where even old fields like linguistics, psychology and sociology have very flimsy foundations should set off alarm bells automatically.


    Izak Reply:

    I’m not terribly crazy about Kevin MacDonald, but in CoC (the only book of his that people care about), he makes a few passing references to evolution — lip service, basically — then gives a huge gigantic amount of evidence to demonstrate a bunch of crappy things the Jews have done politically. AnonCon is different, because he repeatedly goes back to his theories over and over; you can’t possibly separate the theory from anything else he writes. Plus, MacDonald relies on group selection, which is far from a settled dispute. I’m leaning on the side of people who don’t buy into it, but who knows at this point. AnonCon, on the other hand, just makes up gibberish that becomes untenable if you just think about it seriously for five minutes.

    frank Reply:


    >AnonCon, on the other hand, just makes up gibberish that becomes untenable if you just think about it seriously for five minutes.

    Care to give examples and explain?


    Jesse M. Reply:

    >Care to give examples and explain?

    You were asking Izak, but I just came across AnonCon’s book in a recent post here and had some thoughts on the premise, so I’ll jump in here. I haven’t read the book yet, but my first reaction is that even if the left/right split does reflect some type of differing evolutionary adaptations, it seems like the closest parallel in nature would be the split between chimpanzees and bonobos, which doesn’t seem to be a case of r/K selection. Chimps are a more aggressive and male-dominated society, with the dominant males trying to make sure that they are the only ones that reproduce with their harem of females, and males in bands of chimps regularly engage in war-like group violence with other bands; whereas bonobo society is at least somewhat female-dominated, and regular promiscuous sex is used to defuse tensions (over access to food, most often), with interactions between different bands generally observed to be friendly. Similar to Scott of slatestarcodex’s idea about the left/right difference here, it seems like this evolutionary difference between the two species is mainly due to chimps in the past living in an environment where there was more competition for fruit with other primates, while bonobos evolved in conditions of relative abundance, with all the fruit to themselves (see this page). But there seems to be no evidence of r/K selection here–bonobos and chimps have about the same number of offspring (one at a time, with no new babies until the previous one is weaned at 5-6 years old), in both cases the fathers are pretty uninvolved in raising them (see here on chimps), and the investment of a bonobo mother is no less than that of a chimp mother, with this article even mentioning “Bonobo males maintain close and intimate associations with their mothers throughout their shared lifetimes. The strong and prolonged mother-son bond is one of the most important social features in bonobos since it influences male dominance and, to some extent, interrupts the rigid male-male bond that is a major social trait in chimpanzees.”

    Also, for some criticisms of Rushton’s related theory about r/K selection explaining the differences between racial groups, see this article, which makes one general point that should be equally relevant to the use or r/K to explain political differences in humans: “It is not the harshness or temperature of an environment that makes for r selection or K selection; it is the environment’s climatic stability and population density that produce one or the other type of selection … However, the kinds of year-to-year climatic changes that favor r selection have a smaller impact on large mammals like man, so the predictions of r and K theory do not apply within these species (Richard, 1985)”

    Izak Reply:

    Sure thing. Here’s one:

    AnonCon claims that conservatives are K-selected while liberals are r-selected. This is an absurd idea. r/K selection is already exceedingly complex enough when we apply it to humans. If what AnonCon is saying is true, it’s a statement that would have to be qualified so extensively as to become completely meaningless. For instance, most Democrats in the US are pro-abortion. You’d think that alone would disprove AC’s theory, but he doubles down and claims that abortion is a rational way of pursuing a life of constant sexual gratification, which is suited to K-selected populations. A fascinating leap of logic. But then, black people always vote Democrat, and they’re highly anti-abortion when polled. I suppose you could say, “Ah! But they’re rationalizing when they are polled, because they get a disproportionately high amount of abortions!” and I guess that *could* be true, but if their politics disagree with their personal preferences, then how could we possibly make any generalizations about political opinions when they can so easily be changed?

    AC also wrote a whole ebook on narcissism. I didn’t read it, but I read a review of it from Matt Forney. AC feels that most leftists are narcissists because their amygadalas don’t function well (the amygdala is apparently AC’s trump card). An interesting notion, except that A) Narcissist Personality Disorder is highly disputed and it almost was completely removed from the DSM-V altogether, B) the cause of NPD is highly controversial, and C) AC has no proof whatsoever that most leftists are narcissists.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy is a complete hack.

    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 5:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • Jesse M. Says:

    @TheDividualist Googling around a bit, it seems like the insula’s broadest function is that parts of it form the “salience network” in the brain, which help focus attention on usual or otherwise “special” sensory information. For example, this page says “The model we present postulates that the insula is sensitive to salient events, and that its core function is to mark such events for additional processing and initiate appropriate control signals. The anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex form a “salience network” that functions to segregate the most relevant among internal and extrapersonal stimuli in order to guide behavior.” And this page says “Uddin advances the well-supported idea that in addition to being sensitive to visceral, autonomic, bodily states (and also having a causal influence on them), the network responds generally to salient stimuli (like oddballs) across all sensory modalities”. This paper also says damage to the insula results in less willingness to take bigger risks in response to bigger payoffs, and in general not really taking into account gradations in the amount of payoff or loss when deciding what risks are acceptable. So, I’d guess that’s probably relevant to why it would be more active in a gambling task. I bet there was probably increased insular activity in conservatives and liberals alike, and that the difference was only a statistical, relative one. Also, the liberal vs. conservative study probably didn’t try to figure out what levels of insular activity are actually ‘ideal’ for doing best on the task, so we don’t know if the liberals would do better with less–excess insular activity is associated with neuroticism, according to the first article–or if the conservatives would do better with more.


    Exfernal Reply:

    The ‘salience’ being the most relevant operative term here. Think of it as some ‘cognitive overlay’ that underscores all involved factors according to their subjective significance.


    Posted on December 4th, 2015 at 11:19 pm Reply | Quote

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