Your Brain Has A Special Wiring When It Comes To Your Political Views
There is a reason for why it’s hard to change someone’s political views, regardless of what arguments you bring to the table. You may have also noticed that whenever that thing happens and it seems that you get the upper hand in the heated political debate, the other person suddenly turns defensive all of the sudden. As it turns out, however, a new scientific study has shown that there may be something to this behaviour.
Scientists were able to make the correlation between people’s political views and personal identity. In fact, these two seem to be strongly linked to each other, as well as with the part of the brain that is responsible for the emotional responses to various threats. In other words, people don’t really see politics rationally, but emotionally; the same way they see religion.
“Political beliefs are like religious beliefs in the respect that both are part of who you are and important for the social circle to which you belong,” said lead author Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “To consider an alternative view, you would have to consider an alternative version of yourself.”
The experiment involved some 40 volunteers who were self-declared liberals. They were given a total of 16 statements, have of which were political, while the others, while non-political, were something in which the participants believed strongly in. They were then shown a series of counter-claims to each of those statements.
These non-political statements were things like “Alber Einstein was a great physicist” or “Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb”. But when presented with counter-arguments to these, many people experienced doubt about their previous beliefs.
“I was surprised that people would doubt that Einstein was a great physicist, but this study showed that there are certain realms where we retain flexibility in our beliefs,” Kaplan said.
However, not the same thing happened when they were presented with counter-arguments to their political views. Brain activity has shown to be most active in the amygdala. Moreover, the part of the brain called Default Mode Network, also surged when people’s political views were challenged. This part of the brain is usually active when people don’t focus on a particular subject, but often let their minds wonder of daydream. It is also active when people think about others, themselves, planning for the future, or reminiscing the past.
“We should acknowledge that emotion plays a role in cognition and in how we decide what is true and what is not true,” Kaplan said. “We should not expect to be dispassionate computers. We are biological organisms.”
“Understanding when and why people are likely to change their minds is an urgent objective,” said Gimbel, a research scientist at the Brain and Creativity Institute. “Knowing how and which statements may persuade people to change their political beliefs could be key for society’s progress,” said Sarah Gimbel of the Brain and Creativity Institute.