Study: Liberals' and conservatives' brains work differently

From the LA Times:

N.B.: This study says nothing about whether the difference results from heredity or environment. Nor about which kind of mind is “better” than the other (value judgments are outside the scope of science). And it’s definitely not an IQ test.

Still interesting, though.

Well, I have a knee-jerk reaction whenever I see a “W” sticker on a car…

I fail to see any sort of connection between a simple matching game and someone’s entire political worldview. There’s so many possible factors in this study that could affect their performance that I don’t see how they could ever filter it down enough to make a solid connection. It really just sounds like a study to get the researchers in the news to me.

Pffft. How hard can it be to tell the head of the 007 division of the British secret service from the Deciderer?

Apparently there is, at any rate, a demonstrable correlation. The nature of the connection is debatable.

That’s an awfully thin peg to hang that much speculation on.

Reading through the article in full…

The majority of the people talked to were completely unrelated to the study, and the bit they could get from the lead author was basicallly, “this says nothing about which is better.”

Here’s the actual article from Nature Neuroscience, just for kicks:

While I don’t doubt the results, their explanation for the cause of the results is fanwanking. You could just as easily say that conservatives are less likely to take silly tests seriously, or any of a hundred different possible causes.

Real life fairly quickly demonstrates the reverse. The higher wage someone has, the greater the odds that they’ll be conservative. Now how is one supposed to have social mobility with a lack of adaptability?

So which seems a better test for adaptability, real life, or clicking at Ws?

Open your mind to new social, scientific or religious ideas.



  1. Cite?

  2. High income != social mobility.

  3. In some companies/industries/sectors/professions, one can move up by being an “organization man.”


I don’t buy it. I know too many people who were conservative and became liberal, and vice-versa (myself included).

Doesn’t the term “progressive” both fit the liberal cognitive style described by the speculators and also tend to more closely align with political liberals than with political conservatives?

Of course, many have noted the tendency of university researchers to be politically liberal. Surely the ability to accept new ideas is relatively common among university researchers.

Sounds plausible to me (though, of course, not proven, nor did anybody say that).

So then people who are more adaptable are less able to move up in society?

True, of course. And in some, just the opposite.

My only point was demonstrating that one could come up with any of a hundred different plausible reasons for the outcome. A second one would be that liberal students are more likely to have taken the test while under the effects of marijuana and thus were paying more attention as an effort to overcompensate. Which is of course wholecloth BS, but still possibly the true answer. There just ain’t no knowing.

This goes well with my own research that liberals are not only smarter, but also better-looking and more charming. Preliminary evidence suggests we smell better, too.



The research paper is for subscribers only. However, this blog claims to have more info:

Specifically, the blog claims there were a whopping 43 subjects and 500 trials, and the error rate was a huge 47% for conservatives, in contrast to a tiny 37% for liberals. Of course, the LA Times omitted the actual numbers probably because they were irrelevant to the point being made.

Maybe those liberals were just predisposed to consider selecting “Dubya” a mistake.

Leaving aside the whole issue of methodology, (which is leaving aside an awful lot), I see a problem with the test subjects. Given that people change political views over time, (to say nothing about the way that political sides trade places all the time), I woulkd want to see any comprehensive test administered to a whole range of differently aged individuals. (Better, a series of individuals followed over ther course of many years to correlate their poltics and any changes to perceived brain function.

This is not the first time that similar tests have been conducted, frequently with similar results, but if they have all been aimed at college kids, even if they meant anything, (not yet established), I don’t see what serious conclusions could be drawn.

I guess they use college kids in a lot of psych studies because that’s the easiest way to find volunteers – they’re right outside the door.

You’re right, but that’s why a lot of psych studies are kind of bogus (speaking as someone with a degree in psych). Tomndebb is right…you absolutely would want to do such a study with people of varying ages and life stages in order to even begin to be convincing.