Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Neuro-Politics or Political Neuroscience

So tonight I went to a lecture/talk titled "The Neuroscience of Elections and Human Decision-Making: Find Out What Really Rocks Your Vote" I thought it would be interesting to hear a little bit about what Scott does (NeuroEconomics) and a little bit about politics at the same time. Neuroscience is so cutting edge, that the people who study politics and the brain don't even have a decisive name for what they study yet. I think it's a multiple choice question at this point.
A. Neuro-Politics
B. Political Neuroscience
C. Both
D. Poli-Phrenology
Basically I learned that they all think that people make political choices and those choices come from the brain. So they've got the right region of the body, but they still don't know what region of the brain correlates to particular emotions so there's not a ton of data on exactly what Donkey vs. Elephant brains are thinking. People who say they're more liberal are often more adaptive to change both by their account and in one experiment they even adapt to physical change more quickly than conservatives. The test had subjects press the space bar if they saw an M or not press the space bar if they saw a W. This happened 500 times with 80% of the flashes indicating that a person should press the space bar. Everyone had trouble not pressing since they got so used to pressing, but conservative people had a tougher time than liberals.

Now you've had your science lesson for the day. They didn't do much besides speculate on how this related to McCain vs. Obama and how people would vote. Neuroscience is pretty interesting though, because of how little we actually know about how the brain works, or what areas of the brain do. The first FMRI (Functional Magnetig Resonance Imaging) test was conducted in 1991, so science hasn't been looking at live people's brains reacting to anything for very long. Glad I have Scott around to keep me updated.

It's all rooted in the brain.


  1. That's why I've always been a fan of psychology and the nature of knowledge. There's so much we don't know, but we think we might kind of have an idea. Cognitive mapping is absolutely amazing. Doing that with a group of seventh graders showed me so much about how they think and what they focus on. Fun times. Keep us posted with all the new research =)

  2. I knew I'd read about this before. Story

    Drew Westen at Emory University did an fMRI study about this a couple years ago.

    Soundbyte: "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," "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."


Recap Defined

ri•cap 1 (rē-kāp') Pronunciation Key tr.v. ri•capped, ri•cap•ping, ri•caps
1. a summary at the end that repeats the substance of a longer discussion
2. To replace a cap or caplike covering on: recapped the camera lens.
3. Ri - a female given name: derived from Adrienne.