Posts Tagged ‘Political Beliefs’

Can the US Heal Its Political Rift

November 16, 2016

This blog is motivated by an article in the November 5, 2016 New Scientist’s Analysis Section titled, “Make America whole again:  how the US can heal its political rift.”  This article reviews proven approaches to get groups that differ, sometimes radically, in their beliefs or political positions, to work together productively and achieve useful objectives.  At one time these approaches would have worked in the United State.  But these approaches require that the different parties want to be able to work together.  They also require people to have open minds and be willing to think.

Unfortunately, in the United States there is only one party to clap.  The second party, Trump’s Party, and it is called Trump’s party because this person is no Republican, although he did win the Republican Primary.  Trump not only has no desire to work with the Democratic Party, he has little interest in working within his own Party.  He spoke using fear, bigotry, and misogyny and used the first person, “I”, not “we.”  It is the talk of a potential dictator.  It is extremely depressing to see so many people attracted to him.  Apparently, these people are long on fear and bigotry, and short on thinking.  Correction, they do not think.  Consequently, there is no basis for reasoned deliberation.

The New Scientist article notes that there is evidence that genetics may play a role in determining which party we side with.  Unfortunately, as John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln notes, this makes it difficult to change their opinions.  Hibbing argues that conservatives are more “threat-sensitive”.  Threatening images or sounds elicit a stronger physiological response from them than from liberals.

Another researcher, neuroscientist Read Montgue has also found a link between a person’s politics and the character of their emotional responses.  He put research participants into a brain scanner and measured their response to a series of images chosen to evoke a disgust response from images of feces to dead bodies to insect-covered food.  After they emerged from the scanner, they are asked if they would like to take part in another experiment.  If they say, “yes’ they take a ten minutes to answer a political ideology survey.  They are asked questions about their feelings on gun control, abortion, premarital sex, and so on.  Montague found that that the more disgusted a participant is by the images, the more politically conservative they are likely to be.  The less disgusted, the more liberal.  The correlation is so strong that a person’s neural response to a single disgusting image predicts their score on the political ideology test with 95% accuracy.  This score is remarkably high.

HM would like to see this experiment replicated with the following change.  Anonymity would be assured, numbers would be assigned, but the survey would be administered before the brain scanning.  Actually, this experiment would need to be replicated across a representative sample of US voters.  But if this result could be replicated and found to be extremely robust could anything be done?  Brain scanning at polls with medication administered where indicated?  This question is raised to illustrate how intractable this problem really is.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Interesting Split Brain Phenomena

January 23, 2016

Dr. Kaku reports the interesting Split Brain research Dr. Roger Perry of the California Institute of Technology did at the California Institute of Technology, for which Perry received the Nobel Prize in 1981.  Dr. Michael Gazzanigia has continued this research and produced some amazing and enlightening results.  Normally our two hemispheres communicate with each other continually on a regular basis.  However, sometimes the pathways between the two hemispheres need to be severed to eliminate certain debilitating conditions.  Under normal circumstances this operation does not produce abnormalities and individuals continue as they always have.  However, this is done because the information from each eye goes to both hemispheres.

Now there is a technique for presenting information to these individuals so that the information goes to separate hemispheres.  Under these circumstances neither hemisphere know what the other is thinking.  Many interesting results have been found.  For myself, the most amazing result was one split-brain patient who, when his left hemisphere was asked if he was a believer or not, said he was an atheist.  But when his right hemisphere was asked, he declared he was a believer.

We are all well aware of the many differences among ourselves, but it is surprising that there are differences of opinion within our brains.  Kaku writes, “it is conceivable that a person with a split-brain personality might be both a Republican and a Democrat at the same time.  If you ask him whom he will vote for, he will give you the candidate of the left brain, since the right brain cannot speak. But can you imagine the chaos in the voting booth when he has to pull the level with one hand.”