My brain is better than your brain

Well, that is one presumption I could make if you are politically conservative and reading this post (hello, Doug!).  The link to the nice LA Times story is here (and definitely worth a read), but Slate's William Saletan has a great executive summary:

A study says liberal brains “are more responsive to informational complexity.”
Test: You sit in front of a computer screen and wait for a letter to
appear on it. You're supposed to tap your keyboard if it's an M, but
not if it's a W. The experimenters mix it up but give you more M's than
W's to see whether you get lulled into tapping when you shouldn't. Results:
1) On M's, liberals and conservatives responded equally well. 2) On
W's, liberals were twice as likely to be among the more accurate
responders. 3) On electrical measurements of the brain area that
monitors conflict “between a habitual tendency ? and a more appropriate
response,” liberals were five times more likely to show brain activity.
Unofficial scientist/media spin: Liberals are smarter. Official scientist/media spin:
Liberals are smarter, except when circumstances call for a knee-jerk
ideologue. Knee-jerk liberal spin: We're smarter because we have more
agile brains. Thoughtful liberal spin: Then again, maybe we have more
agile brains because we're smarter. (Human Nature's view: Liberals are smart, except when their knees jerk.)

In defense of Conservatives, we get this quote:

Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New
York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of
human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one
political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to
block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the
situation, he said.

Perhaps, true, but for now, I think I'll take comfort in my “more responsive to informational complexity” brain. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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