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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.

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?

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!

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)!!!!

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.

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.

Not Fixed

Obviously it's not fixed at birth, since people, such as myself, went from being conservative to being liberal as understanding of the world and appreciation of complexity developed.

And to first commenter... Climate change isn't freaking us out so much as catalyzing us into hopeful action to change the path humanity is on. It just drives home the need for sustainability, and we aren't sitting home stockpiling survivalist supplies and guns, but out there creating solutions, and getting on top of the matter. Collapse isn't scary, it's an opportunity to get rid of the greed system and build a real economy based on people and planet, rather than on money. We're stepping into our mantle while you lot are dropping yours and running for the hills.

Go to the Study

Has anyone bothered to go to the study itself? I'm a graduate student in biostatistics, and the conclusions restated here by Dr. Barber are abysmal.

The actual study concluded that liberals have more grey matter in the anterior cingulate cortex and conservatives have more in the right amygdala. This quite likely reflects structural changes from learned opinion, not a cause of opinion.

The predominance of grey matter in the ACC may mean more tolerance for reaching no firm conclusions, the same in the RA may mean more suspicion. In fact, the p values for the RA data (p=.048) were very nearly null in the second analysis of cases, so the predominance of grey matter in the RA for conservatives is questionable at best.

The casual suggestion by the study authors was that liberals may show more tolerance for a lack of a firm conclusion on a subject (conservatives could call this wishy-washy). The other suggestion was that conservatives may show more suspicion of threat (liberals could call this fear). Neither conclusion (wishy-washy or fear) is scientifically supported by this study. In fact, the authors then go on to caution that both possible "emotions" come from multiple centers, not one section so no conclusion could be drawn from the predominance of grey matter in a couple of limited brain sections.

The problem here is that Dr. Barber clearly has a political axe to grind and has abandoned every scientific parameter to draw these conclusions. I'm a social liberal and fiscal conservative, so I do not have a commensurate axe. I am, however, appalled that a professional would resort to such absurd over-simplifications and misleading conclusions in order to sway public opinion, and I am further appalled that a generally respected publication would print them.

Old News

In a similar study reported in Psychology Today January 01, 2007 the same conclusions were drawn. In fact these results have been documented NUMEROUS times and can be regarded as scientifically proven facts. Conservatives are cowardly and liberals are far more intelligent. The 2007 article did point out that its not known if the chicken or the egg came first. Are conservatives dim witted cowards because of the respective regions of the brain? Or have the regions of the brain been affected by the cowardice and stupidity of conservatives? Either way its the same result.

Amygdala good for more than fear (Sex Sex Sex)

Has anybody considered that perhaps an enlarged amygadala means that conservatives are just a lot more sexual than liberals? Try googling "Brain size matters for sex" to read an article on how people with enlarged amygdala seem to be more sexual. The correlation that an enlarged amygdala means that conservatives are more fearful seems a bit narrow. This article was probably written by a conservative who does not have the proper amount of grey matter developed in parts of the brain that would give him the capacity to have a more open minded view.

OK. OK. I kid. I kid. But I must because this is a funny article with some funny comments from both sides. Why do we have to be so confrontational? I think we are all developed enough to be able to consider that there may be more to a topic than what we've known all along.

WARNING: I may be evangelizing a bit.

I happen to be a God loving former super conservative, who is still probably not a liberal, and I now believe pretty strongly that Jesus really wants us to be faithful (fearless) so that we can focus on spreading God's love not wrath. And I am pretty sure that Jesus would've have put the beat down on many conservative politicians just as he did to the merchants at some temple. Not because they're any worse than liberal politicians but because they insult God every time they leverage the church for their political agendas.

Unfortunately, if Jesus were to come to the US today, he would probably be labeled a commie pinko illegal immigrant and he might even deported to Israel depending on what state he lands on. And it seems like they really didn't want him there to begin with. You know what I mean?

Let's start spreading the love, people. Your modern/made in God's image adult human brains have developed enough to be able to love while having differences with others regardless of the size of our amygdalas, haven't they?

The Problem With This Study

I found this study after doing some experimentation with alcohol and internet anonymity that would otherwise have been extremely dangerous in real life. Knowing what I do now, I do not seriously doubt the conclusions of the study. However, I do perceive a problem (in a very real way) with its implications.

Any conservative who sees this will deny it because he or she will be afraid of being called a coward, having his or her social standing damaged (a situation entailing very real risks even in today's world), and ultimately being discarded.

Conservatives aren't stupid, and they know how to defend themselves against this sort of attack. The only reason I am helping you is that it seems the world itself is in ghastly danger.

Fuck Liberals

Well, I posted a couple hopefully helpful comments here, but of course they were immediately censored by the liberal enemy. It's pretty amazing how these pompous cock-suckers can sit back, steal our money, and then tell 56% of the nation that they have bad brains and it might be permanent.

Throw a rock....

"THrow a rock over the fence, the dog that holler's the one you hit"

Jumpting to Conclusions

Interesting that the only material I can find associating a larger amygdala with an increased fear response is this study. I can find information linking a larger amygdala to a rich and varied social life, however. The structure (amygdala) is thought to be responsible for such varied things as emotions, memory, and pleasure.

It would seem the only responsible conclusion one can draw is that conservatives appear to have a larger amygdala. Since the role of the amygdala is so varied (or perhaps not fully understood), jumping to conclusions as to the implications just makes one appear foolish.

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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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