Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism

From the page”Political scientists and psychologists have long noted differences in the cognitive and motivational pro?les of liberals and conservatives in the USA and elsewhere. Across dozens of behavioral studies, conservatives have been found to be more structured and persistent in their judgments and approaches to decision-making, as indicated by higher average scores on psychological measures of personal needs for order, structure and closure Liberals, by contrast, report higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity, and greater openness to new experiences on psychological measures. Given that these associations between political orientation and cognitive styles have been shown to be heritable, evident in early childhood, and relatively stable across the lifespan we hypothesized that political orientation may be associated with individual differences in a basic neurocognitive mechanism involved broadly in self-regulation.

Behavioral research suggests that psychological differences between conservatives and liberals map onto the widely-studied self-regulatory process of con?ict monitoring

Conflict monitoring is a general mechanism for detecting when one’s habitual response tendency is mismatched with responses required by the current situation, and this function has been associated with neurocognitive activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)

For example, in the Go/No-Go task used in our study, participants must quickly respond to a frequently presented Go stimulus, such that the ‘Go’ response becomes habitual. However, on a small proportion of trials, a No–Go stimulus appears, signaling that onee’s habitual response should be withheld.

Hence, a No–Go stimulus conflicts with the prepotent Go response tendency. Such response con?ict is typically associated with enhanced ACC activity, measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging or event-related potentials (ERPs)

We proposed that differences in conservatives’ and liberals’ responsiveness to complex and potentially conflicting information relates to the sensitivity of this general mechanism for monitoring response conflict.”

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