Last month author Lane Wallace highlighted two new studies in The Atlantic, both of which offer new insights into the relationship between biology and worldview. In her first piece, "Are Liberals and Conservatives Hard-Wired to Disagree?," Wallace examines the work of cognitive neuroscientist Ryota Kanai. Kanai conducted MRI scans on 118 college students whose "self-reported political views ranged from 'very liberal' to 'very conservative.' " Kanai's findings were rather compelling:
Many areas of the subjects' brains showed no difference based on political orientation. But the subjects classifying themselves as "liberal" had a higher volume of gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex of their brains than study participants who classified themselves as "conservative." The anterior cingulate cortex is believed to play a role in helping people cope with and sort through uncertainty and conflicting information, as well as affecting their levels of emotional awareness and empathy. The "conservative" participants, on the other hand, had a higher volume of gray matter in the right amygdala region—which is thought to play a big role in identifying and responding to threats.
In a second article, "Why Do Women See the World in Shades of Grey?," Wallace details a British study that found women "were more likely to reject absolute answers in favor of the 'somewhat.' " Men, on the other hand, "were far more likely to assert that the objects were completely in or out of a particular category." In short, the men saw the world in black and white, whereas women saw more grey.
Of particular note in the second study is the fortitude with which the women responded. The female participants' answers were not born out of indecision but ...1
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