The political right-side brain v. political left-side brain

A barrage of articles recently came out regarding the different mentalities that Republicans and Democrats have and how our brains – and thus mentalities – are naturally partisan (did you know that we actually use different parts of the brain to think?). The recency of these publications surprise me. Really? Is word about this getting out just now? There are numerous books and academic papers already out there about this. For example, George Lakoff‘s Moral Politics talks all about this and the book came out almost a decade ago, in 1996.

What I’ve observed from past discussions among my GOP and Democratic friends is that Republicans are more “philosophical” in a sense. Republicans tend to stick to policy-making based on principles more so than focusing on numerical data like Democrats do. According to the recent Vox article, “the Republican Party bases itself around philosophical conservatism and the Democratic Party bases itself around policy deliverables.” I also think this is why people call Republicans stubborn and narrow-minded while Democrats are often referred to as softies and too willing to bend. Principles are naturally a more steadfast concept than data — data constantly changes. These differences, however, is also why I think bipartisan compromises are great! It is entirely too hardheaded to base policy solely on principles that are derived only from our own limited experiences, but it is also entirely too unstable to base policy solely on ever-changing numbers that are often inaccurate, skewed, or simply reflective of natural patterns/cycles over time (i.e. China’s one-child policy for population control, which totally threw off mother nature’s rhythm; or maybe you need a little government interference but then back off immediately when things start to seem off-kilter — but this topic is for an entirely different post).

On another note, guess what’s even more fascinating? There are more conservatives than liberals in America, but there are also more Democrats than Republicans. This actually does not surprise me at all. At least from my own experiences, it seems that there are more “conservative”-minded Americans out there who prefer data-based policy-making, or who simply do not like to identify with the GOP (at least not at this point in time due to way too many alienating and totally not PC gaffes as of late – oh, and thanks TP). But then again, I guess I’m biased since I lead a rather conservative lifestyle where I would most likely only encounter people who do the same. Who knows?

Also, let’s go back and take a closer look at how Republicans and Democrats using different parts of the brain and George Lakoff. Apparently, conservatives show more activity in the right amygdala, which aids survival instincts, i.e. “reacting to violations of personal space and controlling social interaction, fear, and aggression.” Liberals, on the other hand, use more of their left insula, which is associated with “self-awareness, social cues, addiction, emotional processing, empathy, and (gasp!) even orgasms.” Having read  Moral Politics, this rings many bells for me. According to the author, Lakoff, conservatives have a Strict Father morality where as liberals have a Nurturant Parent morality. The former emphasizes rewards-and-punishment and children should learn to become self-reliant and self-disciplined. The latter is more about respect and compassion as opposed to obedience – it’s more about exploring life under the protection of parents. Lakoff’s two concepts of morality strike many parallels with the two-party brain system.

All of this being said, I am still flabbergasted that the articles are just now getting out, and only within the last week! I really ought to go back to school so I can write about this stuff and have more credibility (read: degrees = credentials, or so it seems, at least in D.C.).


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