Political opinions are considered choices, and in Western democracies the right to choose one’s opinions — freedom of conscience — is considered sacrosanct.
But recent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major determining factor in the views we hold.
A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
If the study is confirmed, it could give us the first medical explanation for why conservatives tend to be more receptive to threats of terrorism, for example, than liberals. And it may help to explain why conservatives like to plan based on the worst-case scenario, while liberals tend towards rosier outlooks.
“It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes,” Geraint Rees, the neurologist who carried out the study, told the media.
Rees, who heads up UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, was originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4’s Today show that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain brain parts and political views.
He cautions that, because the study was carried out only on adults, there is no way to tell what came first — the brain differences or the political opinions.
But evidence is beginning to accumulate that figuring out a person’s political proclivities may soon be as simple as a brain scan — or a DNA test.
In a study published in October, researchers at Harvard and UC-San Diego found that a variant of the DRD4 gene predisposes people to being liberal, but only if they had active social lives as adolescents. The “liberal gene” has also been linked to a desire to try new things, and other “personality traits related to political liberalism.”
For his part, actor Colin Firth, who hosted the BBC show that revealed the results of the brain scans, has said he wants to see brain scans on politicians to find out if they are telling the truth about what they believe.
Questioning the “liberal” credentials of the head of Britain’s Liberal Democratic party, Nick Clegg, Firth said: “I think we should have him scanned.”
Trump exonerates himself in weird third-person tweet: ‘President Trump didn’t do anything wrong or illegal’
President Donald Trump declared himself exonerated by former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in an early morning tweet.
The president tagged Lewandowski, who testified Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, and "Fox & Friends" in a Twitter post reacting to coverage of the congressional hearing.
"As Corey Lewandowski stated very clearly yesterday in front of the House Judiciary Committee, President Trump didn’t do anything wrong or illegal," Trump tweeted about himself. "But they all know that. The Democrats are hurting our Country, and getting nothing done. Shameful!"
Giggling Fox & Friends hosts gloat over Lewandowski hearing: ‘He gave as good as he got!’
The hosts of "Fox & Friends" giggled and gloated over Corey Lewandowski's contentious appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
President Donald Trump's former campaign manager claimed executive privilege over testimony he gave before special counsel Robert Mueller, admitted he had lied in TV appearances and cracked jokes during five hours of testimony -- and the Fox News hosts were delighted.
"He gave as good as he got," said co-host Steve Doocy.
Co-host Ainsley Earhardt was laughing so hard she could barely speak.
"She said the truth shall set you free," Earhardt said, quoting Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) through guffaws. "'Answer the question,' there was no question."
Netanyahu, Gantz deadlocked after Israeli polls
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz were deadlocked Wednesday after an Israeli general election, reports said, raising the possibility of a unity government or even the end of the premier's long rule.
Various Israeli media reported that Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's Blue and White had 32 seats each of parliament's 120 with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.
The reports were citing sources with the elections committee, as that level of results had not been officially posted yet and were not expected before Wednesday afternoon.