A new study by Emory University scientists has unveiled the make-up of the political brain (semi-via ). As it turns out, ignoring reality is actually a rush “similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix.” Conducted in the run-up to the 2004 election, researchers monitored the brain activity of hardcore partisans as they were asked to consider information that could prove harmful to their candidate:
“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”
“None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged,” says Westen. “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.”
Summary: both Democrats and Republicans (and I’d venture to say some Libertarians and other third party partisans) ignore facts that don’t jibe with their world-view and focus only on snippets that can be used to reinforce their views. Surprising? Not really considering political strategists from both major parties continue to focus on fear and emotional stress as a tool of voter coercion.
[image credit: editorial cartoon from USNews]