Liberals vs. Conservatives: How do their biologies differ?
By Mridula Divakar, Edited by Anvitha Mattapalli, Harvi Karatha, & Aarav Navani, Layout by Vrinda Gandhi, & Blogged by Kavya Gurunath
Political ideologies are broadly divided into two groups: liberals and conservatives. For decades now, we (as a society) have assigned certain characteristics to each of the groups based on how we perceive each faction. An example of this is assuming that all conservatives are against same-sex marriage, or that all liberals want abortions to be accessible. We do this in order to identify the people preaching their own belief system. However, a culmination of recent studies have shown that the two groups differ biologically and psychologically.
A 2013 study conducted by the University of Sydney showed that brain development is highly dependent on the person’s beliefs and values. For example, conservatives tend to have a more active right amygdala compared to liberals, which makes them more vulnerable to feelings such as fear. Another study conducted by Yale in 2017 showed that people who were convinced that they were safe were more left leaning. Therefore, it is evident that one’s emotions are dependent on their own personal belief systems as a result of the effect they have on one’s brain development. Additionally, a 2016 study conducted by Northwestern University showed that conservatives are more prone to have an ordered way of thinking as their brains are conditioned to point out patterns and abide by them. On the other hand, liberals are more likely to have their “aha” moments by simply thinking out of the box. This does not make one group smarter than the other, but it highlights how different the thinking processes are based on a person’s political beliefs.
Even music and art tastes are influenced by belief systems. For example, conservatives are more likely to go for classical art or straightforward music since they tend to shy away from ambiguity; liberals do the exact opposite. This is because their brains find these particular aspects appealing due to repeated conditioning. Lastly, a study in 2015 revealed that conservatives performed better in a cognitive test known as the Stroop color and word test. The name of a color was written, but its font color was different from the color the word resembled. This required the candidate to quickly name the color mentioned rather than the color in the background. While this suggests that conservatives have a better hold over their sense of self control, the study also tested their ability to perform well under more harsher conditions. This led to them performing worse than their liberal peers, suggesting that their cognitive abilities are at their best only when they are at ease (Insider 2020).
All this together confirmed that liberals and conservatives do not only differ personality wise, but also differ genetically, as stated in the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Mother Jones). Thus, it is evident that our genetic differences are the cause for this political and social division that is so apparent today.
Brueck, H., & López, C. (2020, October 27). These key psychological differences can determine whether you’re liberal or conservative. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/psychological-differences-between-conservatives-and-liberals-2018-2#conservatives-believe-they-have-more-self-control-10
Scientists are beginning to figure out why conservatives are…conservative. (n.d.). Mother Jones. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/biology-ideology-john-hibbing-negativity-bias/
Originally published at https://issuu.com.