After having a heated political discussion, have you ever wondered, â€œWhat the heck was that person thinking? Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, tried to answer that question by scanning the brains of Democrats and Republicans while they looked at photos their presidential candidates. The study showed that there are differences â€“ very robust ones, in fact â€“ between the brains of political opposites examining the same images, according to lead researcher Marco lacoboni, MD, PhD, a director at UCLAâ€™s Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping centre.
When participants viewed a photo of their own partyâ€™s candidate, the area of the brain associated with emotional responses became more active. But when pictures of the oppositionâ€™s vote seeker appeared, the part of the brain associated with rational thoughts consistently lit up. It seems that the subjects experienced an emotional resonance to their candidate, while they used a rational approach to distance themselves from the opponent,â€ lacoboni says.
Indeed it appears that people really do have knee-jerk reactions to politics. Its just that they happen in the brain.