It turns out that our political choice is something more than conscious decisions or an impulse of sudden emotions. Many studies show that it is determined by the structure and modus operandi of our brain.
To begin with, let us allow ourselves a certain simplification, dividing political views into two groups — liberal and conservative. Of course, each of them has a number of shades which can also be mixed. Intuitively we can usually relate ourselves and others to one of these groups. It turns out that political views are closely tied to two aspects — the feeling of fear and the level of anxiety. In a 2011 research, a cognitive neuroscientist Riota Kanai studied a group of students who were previously asked about their political views that were evaluated on a five-point scale. Magnetic resonance showed that people with more conservative views demonstrate a higher activity of amygdala - the structure of the brain, which plays a key role in generating negative emotions, feeling aggression and creating protective reactions. This group of test subjects also possesses developed characteristic structures in the area of the entorhinal cortex and areas that may be associated with a feeling of disgust. When a conservative’s brain receives an intensive fear and insecurity stimulus, he naturally aspires to a world organization that gives him a sense of stability and security.
On the other hand, people with more liberal views have a more developed bend of the front edge of the brain, which is associated with the control of uncertainty and work with conflicting information. The researchers assume that this group is easier to tolerate contradictions and does not feel insecure, which facilitates the adoption of a liberal worldview.
Riota Kanai in his study notes that it is incorrect to say, that our political orientation is directly encoded in the brain. It is rather a General tendency to feel certain emotions that cause us to lean towards certain political views. Moreover, according to the researcher, the structures responsible for political orientation in the brain are not formed at an early stage of life, but are formed only as a result of later experience. This also leads to the conclusion that this profile of worldview is not given to us once for the whole life. The level of fear and uncertainty can change over time, as well as political views. Examples of such changes not only can be seen on the political arena (which is not always dictated by the pure impulse of the heart), but also can be noticed in our surrounding – among our relatives and friends.
Another study measured functional differences in brain operation of people who expressed their views. During the experiment, they had to press the button when they saw the letter "M" appear on the screen, and refrain from pressing the button with the letter "W" appeared. The experiment was designed so that "M" appeared four times more often than "W" and thus the test subject had to press the button much more often than refrain from doing so.
The experiment results showed that liberals made noticeably fewer mistakes than conservatives, which, according to researchers, suggests that they are easier to accept changes and resolve conflicts arising within established schemes. However, this does not mean that liberals are better and conservatives are worse. From the evolutionary point of view, conservatism and therefore a cautious approach to the environment and a preference for what is known and close (in the family and social group) is an extremely desirable phenomenon contributing to survival. As a species, we wouldn't have gone this far without the conservative behavior of our ancestors.
Both positions are not good or bad. It's just that the brain structure of the representatives of these political views is different. Liberals are for all that is good and conservatives are against everything that is bad.
For example, liberals say: “Let's abolish the visa regime, it's so good, people will move around freely.”
The ability to move freely between civilized countries is a reasonable and competent policy, but only between countries with roughly the same standard of living and where human rights and respect for individuality are an integral part of society. Liberals want to join this process to abolish borders between people. Conservatives immediately see a threat here: the free movement of people will allow barbarians and savages who oppose human rights, democratic values and individual freedom to destroy the society that has opened its borders to them. They oppose the bad: illegal migration, flows of drugs and weapons that cannot be controlled in this case. Jonathan Hyde, who studies human values, divides them into 5 main groups:
- love for others;
- respect for tradition and power;
- justice for all;
- sense of belonging to a group (nation);
- rejection of what goes beyond traditional moral and ethical norms.
These five pillars characterize the system of values of any person, and Hyde proves that liberals have almost barely any respect for these values, except for two – “justice for all” and “love for others”. These two values are prevalent and highly developed, and “rejection of what goes beyond traditional moral and ethical norms” is least important to them. Conservatives’ values are based on all 5 of these principles, but they are less expressed than the liberals’ commitment to freedom, justice and “love for others”.
To sum it all up: knowing that our brain may have a congenital tendency towards a certain political choice probably won't change the world. However, it may help us understand and respect other people's views and the fact that we are different from each other.