Hard-Wired: Explaining the Political Mindset

Phil. President Duterte and US President Trump Photo by AFP

(This is an opinion on the article Hard-wired: The brain’s circuitry for political belief from Sciencedaily.com on December 23, 2016.)

The year 2016 is filled with political arguments everywhere – especially in social media. The social media world was a nasty battlefield during the election periods (until post elections) in the Philippines and in the US.

Why do people react in an aggressive way when their political views are challenged?

A study by the University of Southern California tried to explain it.

It turns out that our brains are hard-wired for politics.

Neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC said the findings from the functional MRI study seem especially relevant to how people responded to political news stories, fake or credible, throughout the election.

“Political beliefs are like religious beliefs in the respect that both are part of who you are and important for the social circle to which you belong,” said lead author Jonas Kaplan, an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “To consider an alternative view, you would have to consider an alternative version of yourself.”

Furthermore it was reported:

The study found that people who were most resistant to changing their beliefs had more activity in the amygdalae (a pair of almond-shaped areas near the center of the brain) and the insular cortex, compared with people who were more willing to change their minds.

“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 Kaplan, a co-director of the Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center at USC.

This explains why our social media feeds are now full of aggression in political discussions. The part of our brain that’s involved in perceiving threat and anxiety is active during such discussions.

So if you come across a Yellowtard or Dutertard or a Pro-Trump or Anti-Trump, good luck in trying to change their views – it just won’t work!

Better to live and let live instead…

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