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Why we do what we do

Conservatives Big on Fear, Brain Study Finds

Peering inside the brain with MRI scans, researchers at University College London found that self-described conservative students had a larger amygdala than liberals. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is active during states of fear and anxiety. Read More

Asinine study, considering

Asinine study, considering liberals are the ones that mostly succumb to things like the global warming farce and the world is collapsing pandemonium. Conservatives are clearly more objective and reason oriented thinkers. They don't buy into irrationality like liberals are known for.

Asinine comment, considering

typical conservative retort - they are too ignorant to address the real points (strengths and weaknesses) so as typical they attack the persons via name calling and insults.

Funny that's also inline with the author's hypothesis. Which begs another question, is it the size of the amygdala itself or the activity that is the critical feature?

I'd also like to see this study replicated on a different demographic sample.

lack of accountability

Fear combined with lack of accountability usually has a bad ending.

Asinine study considering it

Asinine study considering it finds you a typical cowardly conservative?

As a conservative..

Use your purported complex brain to run through this one: If an opponent really is cowardly, what sort of threat do you think he might perceive in being called a coward? The likely result is this conservative pulling into his conserv-o-shell™ and treating you as a serious threat to his social standing, which in the evolutionary past had a serious link to his chances for survivial. And his brain still sees it that way.

Or put another way, you might as well have just threatened to kill the man for the amount of fear that comment just evoked.

It is always challenging to

It is always challenging to accept new information, even that based on rigorous scientific exploration, if it doesn't conform to one's belief system. Simply discounting scientific research without actually analyzing one's own biased or reading the paper seems immature to me. But what do I know, I have the ability to see the complexity of systems and I'm not afraid of learning new things about the universe as I am a self-proclaimed liberal. Oh yeah, and a physics teacher.

Global warming is based on

Global warming is based on scientific evidence, not farce. But, of course, conservatives actually believe there are such things as "death panels" included in Obamacare, not because they are real, but because somebody told them so, and with their heightened fear response, they do not look rationally at such claims to see if there is any validity to them. Nor do they look rationally at any other outrageous claims the far-right makes, they just believe them outright because, with their enlarged amygladas, they are easily frightened. Those who are passing off these ideas count on it! Just like they neither understand, nor look at the science involved in understanding climate change before they dismiss it as a farce, because somebody told them to. Do your own research, learn some science. Educate yourself!

The Bell Curve is also based

The Bell Curve is also based on science. There's also a study that says liberals are more likely to be pedophiles. And then there's the number of liberals in prison. Oh, and liberals don't really fair all that well on IQ tests either. Perhaps what conservatives really fear is a world run by perpetual adolescents.

liberals have lower IQ?

liberals have lower IQ? where is that study?

This entire comment is a

This entire comment is a complete fabrication. Sorry you were so threatened by the scientific evidence in the article.

Global warming is based on

Hummm... interesting. I would love for someone to please explain to me how any scientist, meteorologists, etc can claim that global warming actually exists when neither can ACCURATELY predict what the weather or temperatures will be just a month out, BUT we are to totally believe they can predict what will happen a hundred years out? How in the world is this possible? I truly would love to have this answered. And, if the science is there... why did they have to change it from 'Global Warming' to 'Climate Change'? Is it because we have been in a cooling phase for the last couple of years? I believe that God has taken really good care of this great planet over the years. It has cooled... it has warmed... and then it cooled again...and it still exists. Not only has God taken great care of us and the planet that we live on... He also has a great sense of humor. Whenever there is a 'global warming' rally, He has it snow...just to show that He is in charge and in control.

Me thinks that it is the left, "the intellectuals" that are the ones that are afraid. After all, it seems that it is the 'right' or the 'conservatives' that are the ones that have no qualms in protecting themselves and others (yes, even the left) with their personal firearms, when the need arises. Most in the military are also conservatives. They are the ones that think of others before themselves. It is they that will lay down their lives to protect their fellow man, not the left. And if you are tempted to start spouting that guns need to be banned because of the deaths that have occurred because of them... stop and research it first. Every single one of them were leftists. They were mostly mentally impaired, usually stolen the gun because they had been declined when trying to purchase a gun from the gun shop (as in Laughner's case and others). It is not the gun that kills people, it is the evil, demented person that pulls the trigger. A gun in the hands of the good person, will be the one that saves innocent lives.

Open Mouth Insert Foot

As partisan as things are, do you really think that increasing the disparity between the parties, is prudent?
I mean, you may as well just dye the people with one gene orange, and the other purple... As we already have Black, and White, and Red, and Yellow, and Brown...
If conservatives are as paranoid as you say... Don't you think this type of article would be fodder for their FEAR?
Just something else for them to think is inferior/superior... "We conservatives have bigger amygdala's than the Dems"...
One step short of The Third Reich!

Let's see... I was born to conservative Parents, both of which have/had enlarged amygdala's, due to PTSD. My mother from having half her face burned, and scarred since she was 2 years old. My dad from WWII service on Batan.

I was beaten, neglected, and humilliated as a child. I experienced the death of 6 year old compatriots, stabbings in HS, being molested by a teacher, a bombing in school, and being raped by a "friend"... I have PTSD, as do all of my 5 siblings. We all have enlarged amygdala's...
So... Why are my two sisters and I Liberals, and one of my 3 brothers is a liberal/conservative...

And as fearful as we may be of things happening in the world, we are fearful most of CONTROL FREAKS like my parents, and two teabagger brothers. Afraid of their "all for me and screw them" attitude...
My sisters and I have been a minority all our lives. We know how it feels to be under paid and under supported... Less than WHITE MALE. Most of our Sisters of the world know this, too.

Just look at Sarah Palin... Female Puppet of the Conservative party. She is a ho to money, and notoriety, now... After being USED as a Female Token Presidential Runningmate, when the Conservatives knew they were not going to win. Then she continues to make women look like ho's, by offering her daughter and herself up, to the "Reality" TV Wasteland. She fears the conservatives.
She is serving to humiliate woman everywhere with her being a Bimbo for money and fame.
She is now going around the world SPREADING FEAR to other countries.
Conservatives in Wisconsin are trying to remove collective bargaining from... NOT THE POLICE AND FIRE DEPARTMENT and their collective bargaining... They are trying to take MOSTLY WOMENS COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS!

There are WAY TOO MANY FACTORS involved in political leanings/draggings, to say that a "gene for fear" makes one a conservative voter.
If anything, having a gene for fear might make one good at handling their fear... And knowing who is TRUELY SCAREY!

I think you may have slightly

I think you may have slightly misunderstood the point of these findings. An enlarged Amygdala merely means that one can be more vulnerable to fear-mongering. Certainly, one's personal history and education also must be taken into consideration as far as what one's political leanings will be. The fact is, though, that with a larger Amygdala, one can be more vulnerable to fear-mongering and irrational ideas...the right wingnuts have used this to their advantage, clearly. lol!

larger amygdalas

It would be nice to know that just because someone has a large amygdala, they don't have be a conservative, but how do you know that you, your siblings, and your parents all had large amygdalas?
Also I want to commend you on overcoming so much tragedy.

It could as well be the opposite or something quite different

The whole thing with the amygdala is not so simple. Larger amygdala correlates also with "social" stuff. According to some studies, one could reasonably make the opposite guess, that larger amygdalas are associated with liberalism:

Amygdala volume and social network size in humans

We found that amygdala volume correlates with the size and complexity of social networks in adult humans. An exploratory analysis of subcortical structures did not find strong evidence for similar relationships with any other structure, but there were associations between social network variables and cortical thickness in three cortical areas, two of them with amygdala connectivity. These findings indicate that the amygdala is important in social behavior.

At the same time, the correlation of fearfulness and size (in contrast with activity) is relatively weak, and more strong in girls (presumably also on women, and women don't seem to make the bulk of conservativeness, if I'm not mistaken, women are more likely to be liberal):

Amygdala volume correlates positively with fearfulness in normal healthy girls

Research into the neural underpinnings of fear and fear-related pathology has highlighted the role of the amygdala. For instance, bilateral damage to the amygdaloid complex is associated with decreased appreciation of danger and recognition of fear in humans, whereas enlarged amygdala volume is associated with internalizing syndromes. It is unknown whether amygdala volume and fearfulness are related in the absence of pathology. We examined the correlation between normal fearfulness and amygdala morphology in 116 healthy children and adolescents (60 boys, 56 girls, age 7–17 years). Fearfulness was measured using the parent ratings on the Pediatric Behavior Scale and amygdala volumes were determined by manual tracing. We found a positive correlation between right amygdala volume in girls (r = 0.29). This relationship was more robust and present bilaterally when analyses were limited to girls with a positive nuclear family history of depression (for left r = 0.63; for right r = 0.58). In boys there was no significant relationship which may suggest that biological mechanisms differ between sexes. Given the role of enlarged amygdala volume in pathology, these findings may indicate that variation in amygdala morphology marks susceptibility to internalizing disorders.

If Conservatives Are Driven By Fear...

...why is it that LIBERALS are constantly panicking?

I mean, there has never been a happier, more confident, more optimistic politicians than Ronald Reagan, has there? And liberals LOATHED him for it! They thought his sunny smile merely proved that he didn't grasp how TERRIBLE everything is, and how rapidly the world was going to Hell.

Pick up any left-leaning magazine from the past 30 years, and you'll find scare headlines. AIDS is going to kill us all! GLobal warming is going to destroy all life on Earth! Reagan is going to get us into a nuclear war!"

A more fearful band of people you will never meet!

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was happy, confident and suffering from alzheimers for most of his two terms.

Astorian, yes Reagan was

Astorian, yes Reagan was "happier, confident, more optimistic..." while threatening to invade, starting multiple wars, needlessly costing many people I knew their jobs, lying through his teeth and not speaking to anything that was really happening in the world in his public speeches, bailing out the S&Ls and then the banks, raising taxes when his trickle-down failed and taking credit for the fall of communism after he just leaned against its already-rotten trunk and it fell over. Oh, and setting up Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq. He treated the public like gullible morons, and he is largely responsible for turning me into a liberal. (shrinking my amygdala?)

Sounds like are current

Sounds like are current president Obama. BAiling out banks, raising taxes, spending trillion on shovel ready projects!!!!
Egypt is in chaos, Libya is in chaos, Syria is in chaos. Fort hood, BOston, failed attempt in Times square, Benghazi. I guess a liberal would not have blown up the nuclear reactor in Iraq or Syria, since only those that live in fear would have thought to do that (enlarged amygdala)!!!!

Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran,

Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Russia - 4 unnecessary wars and a nuclear standoff we've avoided by Obama being in the White House and Republicans not.

The left-right divide

The left-right divide does not exist, as each side is authoritarian on certain issues, libertarian on other issues.


Ronald Reagan said trees were responsible for pollution. His Interior Secretary said Jesus was coming so why bother protecting the environment. Reagan joked that he was starting WWIII, on the radio. We didn't hate him, we worried because he tripled the netional debt, bought $600 toilet seats from defense contractors, supported murderous dictators in Latin America... By the way, AIDS killed while Reagan did nothing, global warming is ongoing and only denied with big-oil money and I and many liberals agreed with Reagan about eliminating nuclear weapons in 1987 and it was the conservatives who attacked him for it.


Ronald Reagan said trees were responsible for pollution. His Interior Secretary said Jesus was coming so why bother protecting the environment. Reagan joked that he was starting WWIII, on the radio. We didn't hate him, we worried because he tripled the netional debt, bought $600 toilet seats from defense contractors, supported murderous dictators in Latin America... By the way, AIDS killed while Reagan did nothing, global warming is ongoing and only denied with big-oil money and I and many liberals agreed with Reagan about eliminating nuclear weapons in 1987 and it was the conservatives who attacked him for it.

Citations on scaremongering

Citations on scaremongering articles being left wing. Scaremongering articles are predominantly right wing. Left wing tend to focus on trying to raise awareness of real issues.

The name calling, the

The name calling, the rigorous almost frantic denial of some perceptions about people in this article and the insistence that the "Liberals" are dumber than a rock are the hallmarks of the conservative mind.
One could look at R. Reagan as the prototype of a Conservative
who had NO brain and yet is still regarded as a hero by the right.
They were subverting the Constitution in the White House basement and breaking the law in the Irangate fiasco and Ronnie was showing his incipient dementia.
One could look at Ronnies first action as California Governor.
He fired the home aides that took care of the homebound, the sick, the aged and the demented-all people who needed the help and care that these minimum wage earners so kindly gave and who were helpful to the most vulnerable of our people. The social workers, who were aware of the pain that would be felt by those that depended on these home health aides walked off the job in protest against the cruelty that Ronnie proposed. So Ronnie did what any self-respecting conservative would do: He fired them. Someone with a brain explained to the Ronster Monster that the state would be in chaos as you ca't hire thousands of trained people overnighrt and hundreds of thousands of pending and operating cases would not be working. So he hired all of them back.

Couldn't you argue that

Couldn't you argue that liberals have atrophic amygdalas and are unable to properly respond to threats from afar? ;)

You could, except that they

You could, except that they are comparing the amygdala to the statistical average-sized amygdala. With an increased neural connection in the anterior cortex, one is actually able to better respond to threats with intelligence. This is in comparison to always being afraid because one remains ignorant about the threat.

Is it possible to have a

Is it possible to have a large amygdala and a lot of grey matter in the anterior cortex at the same time?

This is not science.

This is not science.

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Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.


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