Academic Earth Video: Born Republican? Born Democrat?

The following video was sent to me by a reader and is a very interesting overview of how brain formation can affect partisan affiliation. This is a claim supported by large amounts of evidence and is one that sheds some light on why partisans will often fight (their brains simply see things differently and it is difficult for them to appreciate each others’ worldviews).

This video is the property of, an online educational site, and they deserve full credit for it. While I was just recently made aware of this site, I would suggest that people check it out and view some of the free online courses and educational videos posted on the site.

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Is our political ideology simply the result of a genetic coin toss?

Dozens of behavioral studies have found that conservatives consistently test high on psychological measures of personal need for order, structure, and closure while also showing greater sensitivity to fear and disgust.1 In contrast, liberals test high on psychological measures for tolerance of ambiguity and complexity, and for openness to new experiences. As an aside, these assessments should not be taken as a criticism or an endorsement of one ideology over another. It’s important to understand these distinctions, for which there are reams of empirical evidence, because they provide a critical jumping off point for further study.

In 2005, researchers compared the shared attitudes of fraternal and identical twins toward 28 different political issues including unions, pornography, abortion, school prayer, and divorce.2 Heritability accounted for roughly 53% of variance. In other words, with statistical significance, identical twins were more likely than fraternal twins to agree on matters that would traditionally be considered hot-button issues in any ideological debate.

In 2006, researchers published the results of a 20-year study supporting the argument that genetics influence ideology.3 Personality traits identified in 3 year-olds were predictive of one’s conservative or liberal bent as an adult. Children defined by teachers as “fearful, rigid, indecisive, vulnerable, and inhibited tended to be more politically conservative as adults.”4 On the flip side, children described as “more energetic, resilient, self-reliant, expressive, dominating, and more prone to developing close relationships” tended toward liberalism as adults.

These first two studies established a correlate, but failed to identify a biological or psychological cause for these differences. In 2011, a study took a closer look at the brain structure of conservatives and liberals.5 Premised in part on prior studies wherein conservatives registered stronger reactions to fear, researchers used MRI scans to examine the amygdala – that part of the brain central to the physiological and behavioral responses to a threat. Low and behold, conservatives showed increased gray matter in the amygdala. And liberals? They showed increased gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex – that area of the brain associated with conflict monitoring. These physical correlations were so strong that conservatives and liberals were identified with over 70% accuracy from their MRI scans alone. And like that, a biological mechanism was identified.

To see some studies supporting the claims in this video, go to the following link:

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