Stubborn Political Beliefs "Hardwired" in Our Brain According to Neuroscientists

Admin | Published 2016-12-28 10:57

People who seem to have a firm grip of their political belief may be more resistant to changing their belief no matter how crazy an idea is and no matter how good the evidence is. Scientists wanted to understand what is going on inside the mind of someone adamant about their belief using neuroimaging.

Neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California used a non-political and political issues to compare how the brain responds when provided with counter-evidence while monitoring their brain activity using MRI. It is found out that people are more flexible to adjust their belief on non-political issues, but when political issues are tackled, people tend to not budge. The neuroscientists invited 40 self-proclaimed liberals who support the liberalism of the Democratic Party of the United States and challenged their beliefs while recording their brain activity with MRI. To do that, the scientists presented eight political statements that they themselves declared they believe in and eight non-political statements that they strongly believe in the same extent. The scientists then showed them counter-claims to challenged those beliefs. It turned out that they adjusted their belief by one or two points down to non-political statements like  "Thomas Edison had invented the light bulb." They were presented with the counter-statement such as "Nearly 70 years before Edison, Humphrey Davy demonstrated an electric lamp to the Royal Society." The result showed that counter-evidence in non-political statements still gave them room for self-doubt.

The amygdalae, an area of the brain showed heightened activity when resistance to belief change were exhibited by the participants.

"The activity in these areas, which are important for emotion and decision-making, may relate to how we feel when we encounter evidence against our beliefs," said Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC. "The amygdala in particular is known to be especially involved in perceiving threat and anxiety," Kaplan added. "The insular cortex processes feelings from the body, and it is important for detecting the emotional salience of stimuli. That is consistent with the idea that when we feel threatened, anxious or emotional, then we are less likely to change our minds."

Amygdala activation and perspective

Sara Gimbel, a co-author of the study explained that it is important to understand the reason why people change their mind and when do they usually do. "Knowing how and which statements may persuade people to change their political beliefs could be key for society's progress," she added. The scientists published their study in Nature journal, Scientific Reports. This is an interesting take by the researchers and it's highly relevant in today's social media bickering. It is also important to note that out from those beliefs may lie a genuine concern for society's future, way beyond the lie behind fake news and the need to be right. The scientists should be taking in the self-declared conservatives don't you think. But liberals or not, honestly, are we even surprised? See: Binge-Drinking Adolescents May Alter The Brain of Their Future Offspring!
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