November 20, 2007

Politics & the Brain

Some interesting news / articles lately about the political brain. Here are some tidbits, in the order in which I heard them:
  • This week's All in the Mind covered the political brain: "As Australians stand in front of the cardboard voting booth next week what's going on in our minds? In choosing the future direction of the nation -- do we weigh up policies and promises with a rational mind, or are we emoting with our pencils? And new research has sent the left and right of the scientific community on a political bender with the idea that we're neurologically wired to support our team. All in the Mind probes your political brain." All in the Mind also provides a nice set of citations to articles by scientists featured in the show, including Drew Weston's recent book: The Political Brain: the Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.
  • This week's Science Friday also covered the political brain: "What happens in your brain when you think about politics? We'll talk with a researcher using brain imaging techniques to map out voters' innermost feelings about the current crop of candidates. The researchers used fMRI imaging to examine brain activity in 20 'likely voters' as they looked at pictures of the candidates and watched clips from speeches. But can maps of activity in the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, or insula really translate into action in the polling booth?"
  • The Science Friday article was influenced by a New York Times op-ed piece last week entitled This Is Your Brain on Politics in which Marco Iacoboni, Joshua Freedman, Jonas Kaplan, and others report on their fMRI work on political decision making by swing voters.
All of the studies reported here have their supporters & their critics.
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