Saturday, March 14, 2009

Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits

This journal entry, by Douglas R. Oxley and colleagues, finds that political views may have a biological basis. This experiment tested 46 adults in Lincoln, Nebraska with strong political views. Participants filled out information about themselves and then were hooked up to machinery that measured their blinks and skin conductance. 

Skin conductance "has been closely linked with the psychological concepts of emotion, arousal, and attention." It represents sympathetic activity. Harder blinks indicate a heightened "fear state." 

Results showed that "participants whose policy positions suggest more concern for protecting the social unit were distinguished by an increase in skin conductance when threatening stimuli were presented. Those with "measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War."

One thing we must remember is that correlation does not mean causation. Because people have lower or higher sensitivities does not mean that is what causes them to have different political views. The amygdala is also crucial to peoples' different responses to threatening images and has been linked to genetics. Therefore, the amygdala could be what affects political attitudes. This article gives one possible reason why people have different beliefs among many other possible reasons.

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen the papers/news articles that push a genetic cause of political differences?