Brain Scan Can Predict Your Political Party

A new study paper released in PNAS Nexus by researchers at the Ohio State University says that a brain scan can predict your political party.

Brain Scan Can Predict Your Political Party 1

According to a new study, brain scans can actually identify which political party someone favours. According to a research from The Ohio State University, some “signatures” in the brain properly correspond to one’s political leanings – whether conservative or liberal.

The study is the largest to date to evaluate political ideology using MRI scans of the brain.

“Can we understand political behavior by looking solely at the brain?” In a university release, study co-author Skyler Cranmer, the Phillips and Henry Professor of Political Science at Ohio State, adds, “The answer is a fairly resounding ‘yes.'” “The results suggest that the biological and neurological roots of political behavior run much deeper than we previously thought.”

Researchers also looked at the brain’s functional connectivity and how it relates to a person’s political views. When someone performs particular tasks, functional connectivity refers to how different parts of the brain reflect similar patterns of activity. Simply said, when focusing on a task, these regions all communicate and collaborate.

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Your brain is talking politics — even when you’re not!

The brain scans were analyzed using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence programs and other resources at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. They discovered striking links between the scans and how individuals answered questions on a six-point scale ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative” in terms of political ideology.

Surprisingly, none of the eight tasks completed by the 174 participants during the exam were related to politics! Despite this, their responses offered researchers an indication of their political leanings, which corresponded to variances in the MRI results.

“None of the eight tasks was designed to elicit partisan responses,” says study co-author Seo Eun Yang, a former doctoral student at Ohio State. “But we found the scans from all eight tasks were related to whether they identified as liberals or conservatives.”

Furthermore, the MRI scans reveal disparities in how conservatives and liberals’ brains look even when the participants merely sat quietly and didn’t think about anything.

“Even without any stimulus at all,” says co-author James Wilson, an assistant professor of psychiatry and biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “functional connectivity in the brain can help us predict a person’s political orientation.”

Which parts of the brain predict your political party?

Three of the eight tasks participants completed created the strongest links to political affiliation, according to the study’s authors. One of the exercises was an empathy test in which the participants were shown photos of neutral, happy, sad, or terrified faces. The second was an episodic memory test, and the third was a reward task in which participants were paid based on how quickly they pressed a button.

However, among those who were either very conservative or very liberal, only the reward task properly predicted political extremism.

“More work needs to be done to understand the relationship of reward decision-making with extreme political views,” Wilson says. “The results with the empathy task suggest that political thought may be closely tied to emotion and emotional response.”

Researchers can’t say for sure what creates the link between the brain and politics, despite the fact that the study found one. Despite this, they discovered that the amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus, and hippocampus all had the strongest links to deciding which political party someone supports.

“What we don’t know is whether that brain signature is there because of the ideology that people choose or whether people’s ideology is caused by the signatures we found,” Cranmer concludes. “It also could be a combination of both, but our study does not have the data to address this question.”

Read the study paper below:

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1 COMMENT

  1. Dr. Lyle Rossiter, Jr wrote about this back in 2011 in his book: “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.”

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