Posted from the US
MSNBC had an interesting article a few days ago titled: "Political bias affects brain activity, study finds - Democrats and Republicans both adept at ignoring facts, brain scans show".
The results were derived from research at Emory University:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
The study describes "a total lack of reason in political decision-making".
"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."
All of this appears to be part of an ongoing research study conducted by Dr. Westen titled: "Cognition and Emotion: Cognitive and Emotional Constraints on Judgment and Decision Making".
What I find interesting about this study is that it perhaps help to shed light on recent events. A lot of the political world is suprised at why the Palestinians elected Hamas to office in a democratic election, a move which threw a Molotov cocktail and the fragile peace process that could have developed with Israel. Why would the majority of a population vote in such a seemingly irrational way? Perhaps because they, and maybe we, are wired in such a way that as humans in a situation we may be incapable of sifting our emotional state from the facts - we will in fact vote with our hearts much more than our minds.
Except perhaps in the case of freshly minted Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. The Washington Post reports that
"(he) split with the court's conservatives Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection"
An impressive show of independance from one of Bush's conservative trophies - just hours after a White House ceremony where he was praised by Bush. Let's hope that Judge Alito's first time to the plate is indicative of a lifetime streak of independance, introspective judgement, and adherence to principles that transcend politics or partisan alliance.
So what to make of such things - perhaps we are arriving at a root cause issue for conflict resolution, especially in the Middle East. If we better understand the neural science behind the responses of peoples such as the Palestinians & the Israelis, perhaps a solution other than blowing everything to bits and atoms can be found. If we are aware that their own minds may be betraying us at times - because at times emotional circuits overrun and flood out our ability to reason and make good judgements - what can we do to mitigate these issues? If these circuits allow mothers to send their children out with joy to committ acts of terror and suicide - we are looking down the barrel of the darkest side of human nature - we must find a way to address these problems of our collective mind.
We also need to find ways not to arrest mothers protesting wars in which their own children died - these mothers have an equal if not greater right to be in the halls of Congress than most of our elected officials - how many children did they lose in this war? - How many sons and daughters does the Bush family have fighting a war they so believe in? If you are not going to lead by example, how can you lead at all?