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Old 03-01-2009, 11:58 PM   #127
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Join Date: May 2002
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Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism

Garfield is bent on resorting to argumentum ad hominem and on creating straw man arguments rather than analyzing the data presenting in Nyborg. Interestingly enough, since he was able to locate a disparaging word or two about Helmuth Nyborg, he wasn't concerned with the other citations such as Massengill and Stankov, the latter of which demonstrated a clear and empirical negative correlation between conservatism and cognitive function.

There have been several other recent studies which have made similar conclusions. I haven't, as yet, noticed the study which reached an opposite conclusion, however: that there exists a positive correlation between cognitive function/ability and either religiosity or conservatism.

Another recent study was conducted by David Amodio et al, of New York University in 2007. Here's the abstract:
Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater
neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.
In the methods, Amodio et al used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate event-related potentials associated with neurocognitive activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. Their conclusions included:
Taken together, our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a generalmechanismrelated to cognitive control and self-regulation13. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were alsomore likely tomake errors of commission. Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal.
Kemmelmeier (2008) found a negative correlation between conservatism and ACT/SAT scores. Jost et al (2003) used a meta-analysis to show how several psychological variables predict political conservatism (death anxiety, dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, low self esteem, etc). They state, "The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat." And Deary et al (2007) found that children with a high g (i.e. higher cognitive ability) at age 10 developed more liberal and less conservative attitudes at age 30.

Studies abound which link cognitive ability to political ideology. That political ideology is a function of cognition is a very intuitive expectation given that how one aligns oneself politically is all about how one thinks, perceives the world, rationalizes his existence, etc.


Amodio, David M., et al (2007) Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism. Nature Neuroscience, 10(10), 1246-1247.

Deary, Ian J., et al (2007). Bright children become enlightened adults. Psychological Science, 19(1), 1-6.

Jost, John T., et al (2003). Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339-375.

Kemmelmeier, Markus (2008). Is there a relationship between political orientation and cognitive ability? A test of three hypotheses in two studies. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 767-772.

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