Tel Aviv University Scientists can Identify Political Standing from Brain Response

According to Israeli scientists, they can identify the political stance of people simply by scanning their brains.

Tel Aviv University researchers measured the brain activity of a couple of dozen people via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Half of these people were left-wingers and the other half leaned to the right.

The study

The researchers discovered that the ‘brain responses’ of the participants when they were watching political broadcasts could accurately predict whether they were right wing, or left wing supporters.

The scientists also said that they found a rather surprising element as to where exactly they were able to see the difference.

This is because the difference was not seen in the so-called higher regions of the brain that are used for interpreting the world.

Instead, the differences were found in the ‘lower’ regions that function on a much more primal and basic level.

The TAU researchers found the differences between left-wingers and right-wingers in the somatosensory and motor areas.

These refer to the areas of the brain, which become active when people feel or move things with their senses.

Dr. Yaara Yeshurun, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University conducted the study with Noa Katabi, her PhD student.

The results

She said that all they had to look at was the response from the primary sensory areas of the brain and it helped them identify if an individual leaned towards the left, or the right.

She added that they could even do so simply by looking at an area of the brain that is responsible for hearing and seeing.

The research was carried out just before the elections in Israel in November and politically active voters made up the sample.

It was published in the peer-reviewed journal named Neuroscience and was published in its January edition.

Yeshurun said that before this research, it was widely understood that political differences existed between people because they used the higher regions of the brain like the pre-frontal cortex for interpreting the world differently.

She was referring to the area of the brain that accomplishes the complex cognitive tasks. But, she said that it turned out that the basic regions were where the signs of political differences existed.

She stated that it was apparent that not only were they being interpreted differently, but also perceived differently.

Other details

She also noted that previous research exists about how brain scans can be used for ascertaining political preferences.

But, none of the research had been able to detect it in areas of the brain that deal with basic senses.

Yeshurun also stressed that the research does not explain the difference in brain behavior of people who have different views, whether it is nurture, nature, or any other combination.

Nonetheless, she said that the study gives a practical lesson to people who are engaged in political conversation.

She said that people should understand that during political discourse, people on the other political side may not see the same things as you do and it is best to remember this during high-level dialogue.

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