So there we have it, the brains of those with opposing right and left wing political viewpoints are different. The more right wing you are the more likely you are to have a larger amygdala, and the more liberal amongst us will have a larger anterior cingulate cortex.

We could of course leave it at that but even this has to be politicised.

The amygdala is now being portrayed in a very negative light. It is, we are told, responsible for fear and other 'primitive' emotions. Whereas the anterior of course is responsible for courage, optimism, empathy and reasoning.

Ergo, Conservative primitive and bad, left wing reasoning, brave and good …. QED.

The Guardian put it as a study that has found the 'differences between the brains of progressives and conservatives'. Very impartial (I don't think!)

The study was conducted by the University College of London (UCL) commissioned on a whim by comedian Colin Firth in support of his turn as guest editor of the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme. Geraint Rees the director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience who conducted the study on 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians said he was 'very surprised' at the strength of the findings.

But what does not seem to have been made clear is what came first, the brain development or the political bias. Also there is no indication of the age and/or sex mix of the study's guinea pigs.

But as I have indicated above the worst thing to come out of this is the presumption that 'primitive' emotions like fear are bad. Remember it is fear that drives a mother to keep her off-spring safe and also something that keeps most of us safely on the road.

Also consider an earlier experiment in the US that political bias also affects brain activity (1). It was found that, whichever side of the political fence you sit on, you are likely to formulate opinions on the outcome you want, not the facts or rational thought.

As Drew Weston director of clinical psychology at Emory University at the time said, "None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged. Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

We need a balance of those with defence mechanisms and those with empathic drives. We cannot all be the same nor can we function by belittling others by deriding their brain shape.


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