Brain’s Reaction to Gross, Scary Images Predicts Political Ideology

What’s scarier, an MRI brain study showing participants images of dirty toilets and mutilated bodies, or its researchers concluding that your reaction to such images is enough to predict whether you lean towards political conservatism or liberalism?

Researchers from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute published their study, entitled Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology in the journal Current Biology.

Participants underwent brain MRI while viewing disturbing images such as festering maggots and rotting carcasses, interspersed with pleasurable images like landscapes. Then, the researchers surveyed the participants on divisive political topics like gay marriage and immigration. Amazingly, the researchers used the participants’ reactions to the disgusting images to determine their political leanings with 95 per cent accuracy!

“Disgusting images generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation even when those neural responses don’t correspond with an individual’s conscious reaction to the images,” said Read Montague, lead author of the study. “Remarkably, we found that the brain’s response to a single disgusting image was enough to predict an individual’s political ideology.”

Conservatives tend to have stronger, more adverse reactions to gross imagery, the researchers concluded, although they still aren’t certain why.

“Genetics predetermines height — but not fully,” said Montague. “Nutrition, sleep, and starvation can all change someone’s ultimate height. But tall people’s children tend to be tall, and that’s a kind of starting point. If we can begin to understand that some automatic reactions to political issues may be simply that — reactions — then we might take the temperature down a bit in the current boiler of political discourse.”

Happy Halloween from AIM Medical!

2014-10-31T18:16:05-04:00October 31st, 2014|Brain MRI, MRI, MRI Research, Radiology|

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