November 26, 2004

FEEL OR THINK? (via Tom Corcoran):

Manchurian Voters: New technology spots differences in Republicans’ and Democrats’ brains. (Christopher Orlet, 11/26/04, American Spectator)

Most of us have long suspected that there are profound differences between the brains of Republicans and Democrats. Now new brain-scan technology has scientifically proven this to be the case. No, Democrats' brains are not noticeably smaller than Republican brains. The difference lies in how Democrats and Republicans react to being shown certain stimuli.

According to researchers at UCLA, differences were noted mainly in regard to the expression of empathy: "One Democrat's brain lit up at an image of John Kerry 'with a profound sense of connection, like a beautiful sunset,'" according to researcher Joshua Freedman. Brain activity in a Republican shown an image of Bush was "more interpersonal, such as if you smiled at someone and they smiled back." In other words Republicans may be better at building real and realistic relationships, while Democrats are more likely to see the connection between a Democratic victory and continued and unimpeded flow of government handouts. [...]

In another segment of the test, according to the Associated Press, "voters were shown a pro-Bush commercial that included images of the September 11 attacks. The amygdala region of the brain -- which lights up for most of us when we see snakes -- illuminated more for Democrats than Republicans. The researchers' conclusion: at a subconscious level, Republicans were apparently not as bothered by what Democrats found alarming."

Liberalism proceeds from emotion, conservatism from thought, explaining the gender gap also.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2004 5:25 PM

"One Democrat's brain lit up at an image of John Kerry 'with a profound sense of connection, like a beautiful sunset"

Beautiful sunset?? Egads, that's perverted.

Posted by: h-man at November 26, 2004 6:25 PM

And that for a man that they don't even like, by all accounts. Odd.

Posted by: John Thacker at November 26, 2004 6:40 PM

OK, the Democrats react more to a pro-Bush ad in the area that regulates hate and fear. And Republicans don't react to a pro-Bush ad with as much hate or fear. And this shows that Democrats are more emotional than Republicans.

I'm sure I don't need to point out the mile-wide mistake here.

Posted by: Social Scientist at November 26, 2004 8:00 PM

Many years ago when I was a young and foolish college student, I decided I didn't know what my politics were, so I would figure out what the smartest people believed, and believe that. It didn't take long for me to realize that there were smart people and stupid people on all sides of any political issue. That's when I understood that political belief was more a matter of emotions than of brainpower.

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 26, 2004 9:19 PM


Yes, why don't Republicans react to 9-11 with hate and fear?

Posted by: oj at November 26, 2004 9:35 PM

Stuff like this is called 'science' and phrenology is ridiculed?

Posted by: Bart at November 27, 2004 3:01 AM

There is nothing, NOTHING, in this "experiment" that isn't subject to interpretative bias.

Bart is correct, this is just as scientific as reading Tarot cards.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 27, 2004 6:54 AM

It is amazing how some people's view of science changes when it confirms their biases. This is quackery of the first order, it makes Scientology look good.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 27, 2004 12:54 PM

I just thought it was funny.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at November 27, 2004 8:43 PM


It also comports with observation. And it's amusing that folks with no clue as to the methodology used are saying it isn't scientific.

Posted by: oj at November 27, 2004 9:30 PM


Perhaps you missed it, the article outlines what was done.

While the future is bright for such technology, right now all we can say is: "These parts of Subject X's brain were active when viewing such-and-such material."

What does the activity mean ?
Anything you like.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 28, 2004 6:22 AM

That's "all"? Your brain functions differently depending on your political bent.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2004 8:57 AM


I agree, of course. Liberalism in its modern form is emotional. What is more irrational than envy? What is more demagogic than playing on uninformed fear? What remains of the Democratic playbook without them? Researchers seem to have entered the world of the social sciences in order to prove the obvious to the subjects of the research. Why bother?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at November 28, 2004 11:11 AM


That might be true, but this study doesn't establish it.

The point, which you seem to be rather willfully missing, is that this study was sloppily done, and that the technology used CANNOT say why certain brain areas were active.

It cannot differentiate between people who love birds, and people for whom birds remind them of their spouses.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 29, 2004 10:07 AM

How do you know it was sloppily done? It registered differences, no?

Posted by: oj at November 29, 2004 10:48 AM

Yes, why don't Republicans react to 9-11 with hate and fear?


They weren't shown "9/11," they were shown a pro-Bush ad featuring 9/11. An ad that was part of the campaign. An ad favoring Bush. In his favor. For him. On his side.

Democrats are not on his side in the campaign. They do not favor him.

Republicans are on his side in the campaign. They do favor him.

Democrats in the study were reacting to the ad.

Republicans in the study were reacting to the ad.

The Democrats had a negative reaction to the ad.

The Republicans had a positive reaction to the ad.

Conclusion: Democrats are more emotional.

Do you see the flaw now? I can spell it out a little more if need be.

Posted by: Social Scientist at November 30, 2004 11:34 AM

Yes, please do, the story refers specifically to the reaction to images of 9-11.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 11:44 AM