Six Telling Studies Show How Conservative And Liberal Minds Are Wired Differently

That tricorn hat is on too tight!

Maybe you have an uncle who repeatedly cites the need for war and violence whenever something bad happens in the world. Or an old high school friend who will mourn the death of fetal tissue but denounce children relying on welfare to eat. No matter how many statistics or actual facts you throw their way, they just don’t seem to understand where you’re coming from as a liberal.

The struggle is real, and it’s frustrating to have two reigning ideologies in the country that are polar opposites. It has liberals and conservatives alike banging their heads on their desk screaming, “WHY!?”

The answer is in the minds of conservatives and liberals. Our minds, emotions, intelligence and experiences all dictate our choices and focuses and many scientists have studied subconscious and conscious reactions to certain issues, topics or stimuli that might explain this vast difference in reasoning (or lack thereof).

Six studies that explain the difference between liberal and conservative minds:

6. Conservatives are more easily disgusted:

A study from 2011 found a “stronger disgust response” in conservatives rather than liberals. Participants were asked their political ideology and were then tested based on how disgusting they found certain scenarios (e.g. sipping a soda to find an acquaintance drank out of the same glass). Conservatives showed higher levels of disgust in the Core Disgust area which is linked to sexual attitudes. This sensitivity to disgust response could also come into play when deciding on issues related to religion, homosexuals, homeless people or the extremely poor, and abortion.

The study indicates: 

Disgust seems especially likely to affect judgments of acts that are related to sexual, bodily, or spiritual purity. For instance, individuals made to feel disgusted are more likely to report that taboo sexual behaviors are morally wrong (Horberg, Oveis, Keltner, & Cohen, 2009) and are more likely to report negative feelings toward social groups associated with these behaviors (such as gay men).

Which goes to show many Conservatives may be directly hindering same-sex couples rights on the basic fact that they find them “icky.”

Meanwhile, Liberals are like:



5. More activity in brain of liberals when presented with conflict:

Scientists from a 2007 study tested left- and right-wing participants on how they process conflict, and the results showed that conservatives and liberals react much differently when presented with conflict.

The participants were asked to press the letter ‘M’ on a keyboard when the letter ‘M’ appeared onscreen and to do nothing when the letter ‘W’ appeared. Each test subject were electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that processes conflict between repetitive motions, like pressing a key and appropriate responses.

The study found those with liberal leanings had more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex and also had more correct answers, which means they were able to process stimuli much more effectively.

Frank J. Sulloway, Professor at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Personality and Social Research, told the LA Times:

The results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a “flip-flopper” for changing his mind about the conflict.

4. Studies indicate right-wingers are less intelligent:

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber

When former Republican Senator Rick Santorum said, “We’ll never have the elite, smart people on our side,” he was actually right. Broken clock and what not.

A study conducted in 2012, with 15,000 participants, had their intelligence tested during childhood, the participants then took a test on their political leanings when they reached adulthood. The study showed that lower intelligence in childhood resulted in racist, homophobic, and sexist views in adulthood. The study also showed that regardless of education level or social status innate intelligence dictates how accepting a person will be towards people different from themselves. Lower intelligence in childhood also meant a person was likely to identify more with the right-wing side of politics.

Score for the liberals!

3. Conservatives have a “negativity bias”:

If Fox News is any indication, conservatives lean strongly towards negativity. The channel is pretty much a 24-hour fear machine, whipping their viewers into a froth over even the most mundane topics.

In this study participants were hooked up to an eye-tracking machine that measure autonomic responses of pupil dilation to measure a person’s reaction to certain stimuli (an open wound with maggots, a spider on a scared person’s face, etc.). The test found that participants who leaned conservative reacted much more quickly to the negative images showing an innate physiological reaction to fear. Which makes sense given the right’s propensity for a well-funded, large military, tougher law enforcement, being adverse to illegal immigration and guns, guns, guns!

The results of this test were accepted widely within the scientific community.

2. Conservatives don’t get the joke:


In a study called The Irony of Satire, researchers set out to prove Conservatives don’t get the joke. Using The Colbert Report as a barometer, researchers showed the obvious left-leaning comedian acting as a severe right-winger to participants and then asked them several questions after the episode.

From the study:

Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy.

Meaning conservatives didn’t get the joke, they really thought Colbert meant all his jabs at liberals, because the information was too ambiguous for them to interpret and so they interpreted it the way they were most comfortable. People tend to see what they want to see and follow information that agrees with them. However, Conservatives were much worse at separating their natural bias from the reality of the information being presented to them.

1. Conservatives have larger “fear centers” in their brain

Fox News

Fox News

A study of MRI scans between students identifying as conservative or liberal shows a slightly larger amygdala in the brains of conservatives. The amygdala is mainly responsible for fear, and so it makes sense if the amygdala is larger in conservatives why they fear silly threats like Ebola after only a few cases in the U.S.

The study also goes to show that smaller fear centers would naturally lead to a more adventurous lifestyle, a hallmark of Liberals who are more open to new experiences and different people.

Together we make a whole team.

It’s important to have wary, order-driven people on a team, just as it’s important to have logical and adventurous players. These studies only show our differences but combining conservative strengths like organization, order and security with liberal strengths like creativity, innovation and intelligence has worked to human civilization’s advantage for a very long time to create this world in which we live. However, if you’re looking to simply win an argument against your uncle with Celestial Seasonings tucked into his tricorn hat, it most likely will not happen because of the way in which stringent conservatives are emotionally, cognitively, and physiologically wired.

H/T: Buzzfeed | Photo: The Tea Party Express

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