Tories - Natural Born Cowards?

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#1
Ok maybe over egged the title of the thread but it did make me laugh and raises interesting questions regarding developmental psychology, the nature v nurture debate and the attitudes and reactions of many people in the world:

[url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8228192/Political-views-hard-wired-into-your-brain.html said:
Political views 'hard-wired' into your brain - Telegraph[/url]]
Political views 'hard-wired' into your brain

Tories may be born not made, claims a study that suggests people with right wing views have a larger area of the brain associated with fear.


The brains of MPs and students were examined Photo: CORBIS







By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent 5:00PM GMT 28 Dec 2010



Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.


On the otherhand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life.

The "exciting" correlation was found by scientists at University College London who scanned the brains of two members of parliament and a number of students.

They found that the size of the two areas of the brain directly related to the political views of the volunteers.


However as they were all adults it was hard to say whether their brains had been born that way or had developed through experience.


Prof Geraint Rees, who led the research, said: "We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude.


"It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude."

Prof Rees and his team, who carried out the research for the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, looked at the brain make up of the Labour MP Stephen Pound and Alan Duncan, the Conservative Minister of State for International Development using a scanner.
They also questioned a further 90 students, who had already been scanned for other studies, about their political views.

The results, which will be published next year, back up a study that showed that some people were born with a "Liberal Gene" that makes people more likely to seek out less conventional political views.

The gene, a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4, could even be stimulated by the novelty value of radical opinions, claimed the researchers at the University of California
On the other side from earlier this year:

Reading the Guardian? It could be down to your 'liberal genes'

US researchers have identified a gene variant they say can lead to a liberal political outlook – with the help of a few friends

Did they have the DRD4 gene? Researchers say those with the gene, linked to novelty-seeking, may have a more liberal outlook on life. Photograph: Rex Features


Ever wondered why you have a hankering to drive a Prius and drink lattes? Or why you read the Guardian and scrupulously put it in the recycling? There might be a gene for that – with a little help from your friends.

Researchers at the University of California and Harvard University have identified a specific gene variant that they say predisposes those carrying it to liberal political ideology – with the findings quickly seized on by the US media as uncovering "the liberal gene".

Simply having the gene – a variant of a dopamine receptor known as DRD4, linked to novelty-seeking – is not enough by itself to make someone a liberal, according to the article in the latest issue of the Journal of Politics, published by Cambridge University Press. The study found that adults with the gene were more liberal depending on how wide their circle of friends was while they were growing up.

"It is the crucial interaction of two factors – the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal," the researchers state. They found that the correlation held true independently of gender, age or ethnic and cultural background.

According to the study: "Ten friends can move a person with two copies of [the gene variant] 7R allele almost halfway from being a conservative to moderate or from being moderate to liberal."

The research, led by James Fowler of the University of California's San Diego campus, suggested that those with the novelty-seeking gene variant would be more interested in learning about their friends' views, exposing them to a wider variety of lifestyles and beliefs and making them more liberal as a result.

"These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience," said Fowler, a professor of political science and medical genetics best known for his work on social networks with Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, who worked on this study.

The authors, however, say their findings should be "treated cautiously" and that more research is needed before hailing a liberal gene. "The expectation in genetics is that only repeated efforts to replicate associations on independent samples by several research teams will verify initial findings like these," they wrote. "Perhaps the most valuable contribution of this study is not to declare that 'a gene was found' for anything, but rather, to provide the first evidence for a possible gene-environment interaction for political ideology."

By matching genetic data with the friendships and social circles of those surveyed, the researchers could show that people with the variant of the gene were more likely to be liberal as adults if they also had an active social life during their teenage years.
"It is our hope that more scholars will begin to explore the potential interaction of biology and environment," Fowler said.
 
#2
How have they determined what the political views are though? (apart from asking who they vote for, which may not be the same thing)

For example in this country Labour are seen as left wing and conservatives are right wing, but when you think about it, your old school socialist working class miner/steelworker/car maker would be a white man who wouldnt want any foriegner immigrants because they might take their jobs, where as your average evil capitalist factory owner wants a bigger pool of manpower (to keep costs down) and give them a bigger market to sell to.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#3
If anything it raises questions, it's hard to provide any definative answers given the nature and make-up of the study. To provide a more accurate study it would be necessary to follow a large number of subjects from a vast cross section of society from birth, where scans are regularly carried out as well as regular questionnaires and analyses of environmental and educational factors all of which may play a part in the formation of views in later life.

I will use it to tease people though :-D
 
#4
I also suspect that nurture would have more to do with the results than nature.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#5
I suspect that a pisspoor methodology may have been an even bigger factor.
 
#6
They are conflating fear and cowardice. People who aren't afraid when it is dangerous are commonly called "idiots" (or "drunks".)

I always thought that cowardice is when you allow your fear to drive your actions.

Anyway - I'm scared of the ineptitude and ulterior motives of politicians.
 
#7
I'm suspicious of the guardian one because it was published in the journal of politics.

There are plenty of good imaging journals out there, and the Journal of politics doesn't sound like an obvious choice, tbh. Usually when authors publish imaging studies in inapproproate journals, it's because they were refused by the more appropriate ones.

Sadly, it's a fact that some imaging studies are like the emperors new clothes, with authors unaware that they are practising modern day phrenology.

Edit - Just re-read (I'm reading on a smart phone), and saw the second article didn't use neuroimaging. Although I suspect he point still remains as to why a genetics study was published in an appropriate journal.
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#8
I'm suspicious of the guardian one because it was published in the journal of politics.

There are plenty of good imaging journals out there, and the Journal of politics doesn't sound like an obvious choice, tbh. Usually when authors publish imaging studies in inapproproate journals, it's because they were refused by the more appropriate ones.

Sadly, it's a fact that some imaging studies are like the emperors new clothes, with authors unaware that they are practising modern day phrenology.

Edit - Just re-read, and saw the second article didn't use neuroimaging. Although I suspect he point still remains as to why a genetics study was published in an appropriate journal.
Excellent point, as it highlights the nature of these studies to suffer somewhat from confirmation bias of preconcieved notions.

The Torygraph article exaggerates the idea of fear in right-wing politics, a pre-concieved notion all too asscociated with the right in politics. I exaggerated further a la Daily Mail Stylee by deliberately using the word "Cowards" to draw in response.

As I have already stated I have a number of issues with the methodologies of the studies in question, which I will not bother to repeat. Needless to say the study is suggestive and best considered as anecdotal rather than conclusive. In reality all that the fear study indicates is that Fear is conflated with reactionary politics, this is equally an issue that both Left & right suffer from, and in everyday thinking reactionary politics is nearly always conflated with the Right Wing - which is sloppy thinking - further it raises issues with how science is often reported in the general media.

Still gonna use it to tease people though.
 
#9
I think I've spotted the fundamental flaw in their methodology.

The brains of MPs and students were examined
Perhaps instead they should have examined the organs both groups actually use to do their 'thinking'?
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#10
,
Sadly, it's a fact that some imaging studies are like the emperors new clothes, with authors unaware that they are practising modern day phrenology.
Interestingly, that's exactly how my neurophysiology supervisor at university described such studies. He was particularly damning about the work of the Imperial College team responsible for the old TV series 'Einstein's Brain' when I mentioned it at an admissions interview. For those who dont know the series, they concluded that Einstein was so good at theoretical physics because he had more grey matter between his visual cortex and what they called 'the mathematical centre'. That really is phrenology on a grand scale.
 
#11
The Torygraph article exaggerates the idea of fear in right-wing politics, a pre-concieved notion all too asscociated with the right in politics. I exaggerated further a la Daily Mail Stylee by deliberately using the word "Cowards" to draw in response.
I think there are a lot of loaded words being used. If I were to paraphrase the conclusion as, conservatives are cautious and liberals are reckless, then I expect most conservatives would agree with the study.
 

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