George Graham

Now We Know; Conservatives Have Weird Brains

I often suggest to my conservative friends that they should have their heads examined. And at last, someone has done just that – examined conservatives’ brains. And -surprise – it turns out their brains are, well, different.

According to a report by Christopher R. Walker in today’s

A  study to be published next year at University College London suggests that conservative brains are structured differently than the brains of other people…

Specifically, the research shows that people with conservative tendencies have a larger amygdala and a smaller anterior cingulate than other people. The amygdala – typically thought of as the “primitive brain” – is responsible for reflexive impulses, like fear. The anterior cingulate is thought to be responsible for courage and optimism. This one-two punch could be responsible for many of the anecdotal claims that conservatives “think differently” from others.

The operative word here, it seems to me, is “primitive.” Knuckles-dragging-on-the-ground primitive.

But conservatives (naturally) see it differently.

They think it’s our brains that are deficient. Here’s how Walker put it:

A previous University of California study suggests … a so-called “liberal gene” – the neurotransmitter DRD4 – (is) responsible for an increased receptiveness to novel ideas.

Predictably, conservatives have jumped on both studies as an indication of their biological superiority. Across the right-leaning blogosphere and twitterverse, DRD4 was cited as the underlying cause of the “mental illness” known as liberalism; and some conservative tweeters have even tried to claim that the enlarged amygdala just means that conservatives “have bigger brains.” Of course, the first claim begs the question, and the second ignores the shrunken anterior cingulate.

So, we might as well stop trying to enlighten those conservatives. They are anterior cingulate deprived.

And it makes no sense arguing with someone with an overgrown amygdala.

Their arguments are bound to be primitive.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for