Conservative Brains vs. Liberal Ones

One website says conservatives are cleaner and more organized, while liberals are more creative and flexible.


Non-profit debate site ProCon.org just published Differences in Conservative and Liberal Brains, based on over a dozen peer-reviewed research articles. Here are some of the conclusions they drew…

  • Conservatives spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and liberals spend more time looking at pleasant images.
  • Reliance on quick, efficient, and “low effort” thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies.
  • Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala).
  • Conservatives have stronger motivations than liberals to preserve purity and cleanliness.
  • Liberals are more open-minded and creative, whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized.
  • When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary.

Check the site for more and for links to the research studies conducted between 2007 and 2012 that inform their conclusions.

Is the site biased? The site’s FAQ says no, of course. Librarians have argued over it: one says yes, the site has a conservative bias. Another says no bias, just poor organization. Of course, it’s also possible the individual studies are biased.

Stacy Johnson

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