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Neuroscientists Can Predict Your Political Views with a Brain Scan

Topics: Politics | Add A CommentBy admin | February 18, 2013

Not clear on what your political beliefs are? No need to slice your head open or get an MRI, we have some quick handy quizzes to do the job!

Did you know that a brain scan can predict your political leanings with 83 percent accuracy? A Smithsonian Magazine pieceĀ  the other day about research done at the University of Exeter offered some surprising insights into the reflexive responses in the brains of a small set of subjects which demonstrated a correlation between the subjects’ political leanings and their response patterns to various stimuli. In a nutshell, the study suggested that liberals tend to be more willing to accept risk and novelty, and show stronger bonds with broad social connections, while conservatives tend to have more pronounced “fight or flight” responses to risk, and are more stimulated by narrower social connections. See the full article and its embedded links for a more nuanced picture, it’s not quite that simple.

But you don’t have to scan or slice open your brain to figure out what your political leanings are. In an era of politics shaped by the “values vote” political messaging masterminded by Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, a lot of us are not quite as liberal or conservative as we think. Strong sentiments about issues like abortion, war, and gay marriage can manipulate your thinking into a very polarized position, when in fact you may in every other way espouse values of the party you think you detest. But don’t worry, there’s a test to help you sort things out. Actually a bunch of them. With just twenty a/b questions, the Pew Research Political Typology Quiz informed me that I – along with 10% of the population – am a “New Coalition Democrat”. I of course bristle slightly at this; if I have to put myself in one of the current boxes available, I think I’d be a weird hybrid of Green Party and Libertarian. The common red vs blue framework doesn’t really capture the values of someone like me who thinks money itself is an obsolete concept, which renders a lot of other dialog pointless. Anyway, adding a little more nuance, we have the Political Philosophy Quiz, which identified me (with relative accuracy) as a “socially progressive, moderately capitalist, libertarian pacifist”. The On the Issues PartyMatch Quiz assessed me as 55% Democrat, 53% Green Party, and 37% Republican. A little more accurate in some ways, but all of these quizzes highlight one thing, which is that we’re stuck in a gridlocked bipartisan system that doesn’t really representĀ anyone’s values, except those who are inside the game, or happy to take their marching orders from those who are.

Probably the most useful of these online quizzes for someone like me was the About.com Political Loyalty Quiz, which asked questions like “Which bumper sticker would you be most likely to put on your car?” and offered choices like “At Least In Vietnam, Bush Had An Exit Strategy” or “Nice Hummer. Sorry About Your Penis”. What about you? Do you know where you really stand? Or or are your party convictions really based on single issues?