April 12, 2024


In the on-going search for neurological explanations of all human behaviour, researchers have found that liberals are smarter than conservatives, at least in the US. Writing in , scientists at New York University and UCLA report that political liberals are better able to handle "informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty" (yay!!) , while conservatives "show more structured and persistent cognitive styles" (boo!!).

They conclude that their investigations demonstrate "how abstract, seemingly ineffable constructs, such as ideology, are reflected in the human brain".

The researchers recruited college students who rated themselves on a scale from "very liberal" to "very conservative". The test consisted of tapping a keyboard when an M appeared on a screen and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W. M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee- jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter. Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, but they were equally accurate in recognising M.

Lead author David Amodio, of New York University, cautioned one could not conclude that being a liberal was better than being a conservative simply because of skills in pressing Ms and Ws. Other factors, such as education and income, affect political orientation, too, he noted. In fact, he says, some liberals have been known to oppose higher taxes and some conservatives to favour abortion rights.