Friday, September 12, 2008

This is your brain on politics 

Are you addicted to your political beliefs? Literally?

A neurological study of political partisans...

... The results showed that when partisans face threatening information [about their own favored candidate] not only are they likely to “reason” to emotionally biased conclusions, but we can trace their neural footprints as they do it.

When confronted with potentially troubling political information, a network of neurons becomes active that produces distress ... The brain registers the conflict between data and desire and begins to search for ways to turn off the spigot of unpleasant emotion...

Not only did the brain manage to shut down distress through faulty reasoning, but it did so quickly ... The neural circuits charged with regulation of emotional states seemed to recruit beliefs that eliminated the distress and conflict partisans had experienced when they confronted unpleasant realities. And this all seemed to happen with little involvement of the neural circuits normally involved in reasoning.

But the political brain also did something we didn’t predict.

Once partisans had found a way to reason to false conclusions, not only did neural circuits involved in negative emotions turn off, but circuits involved in positive emotions turned on. The partisan brain didn’t seem satisfied in just feeling better. It worked overtime to feel good, activating reward circuits that give partisans a jolt of positive reinforcement for their biased reasoning.

These reward circuits overlap substantially with those activated when drug addicts get their “fix,” giving new meaning to the term "political junkie"...

Political partisans not only literally "see no evil" about their own party and candidates, they actually get an endorphin high from suppressing compromising thoughts about their own party and candidates. (Perhaps this gives some clue to where wars come from?)

So the next time you look in the mirror and ponder why it feels so emotionally important to you that the other side be beaten in the coming election, you will for the first time understand the scientific explanation why.

Yes, you will know that your feeling of urgency is scientifically validated because the other side literally can't tell the difference between good and evil, even when the evil of their own candidates is right before their eyes -- they must be stopped, because they are endorphin crazy!