In an age of political polarisation, particularly in the USA, I was fascinated to read this piece of research (though I had long surmised that extremist attitudes on either side of the political spectrum share many similar characteristics).
44 committed liberal and conservatives (in the USA) were put in a brain scanner and they observed three scenarios:
- A neutral news report on a hot political topic
- An inflammatory political debate
- A nature documentary
What did they see?
Divergent brain responses between conservatives and liberals but similar processing between the different groups which led the researchers to say:
“If you are a politically polarized person, your brain syncs up with like-minded individuals in your party to perceive political information in the same way,”
So far so good, maybe unsurprising. Political ideologists tick the same way, we knew that but the fMRI data is kind of cool (and has been done previously).
What was interesting is that a personality trait known as Uncertainty Intolerance seems to predict the level of this synchrony. As the researchers noted:
“Uncertainty-intolerant individuals experienced greater brain-to-brain synchrony with politically like-minded peers and lower synchrony with political opponents — an effect observed for liberals and conservatives alike.”
Now this is interesting, it seems like this trait leads them to hold strong stable beliefs irrespective of which direction.
- Brains of politically like-minded individuals tick in the same way. Synchronise in their responses to political content
- But uncertainty-intolerance modulates this response, in either political directions.
So the brains of political polarised individuals are not as different as one might expect and this research shows that they have, counter intuitively, similarities!
I imagine this has implications in the business world also and any deeply held viewpoints here.