Are liberal people likely to be more intelligent then their fellow humans? I know putting people into either a Liberal or Conservative group is somewhat of a false divide, and most people share qualities from both groups. Nonetheless, liberals are apparently smarter than your average bear, according to the publication Nature Neuroscience. Take a hypothetical story on a house fire: I'll switch to Fox news and they'll show the flames and estimate the damage. They'll show a the black tennents and neighbors. They'll talk about how the local economy might be damaged. They'll mention how this is a result of black poverty and that the tennants could be responsible, but that's as far as they'll go. It seems very superficial, as if the effect is much more important than the cause. Click to, say, CNN and I see the neighbors being interviewed and saying that the family was nice and didn't deserve this catastrophe. They'll show the damage that the fire did to the community and the social network. They'll show the mother, crying as she talks about how the fire was caused by a slumlord neglecting fire codes, and how her family could have died because of his greed. In this case, the cause is more important than the effect. I believe that the glossing over that conservatives do on news stories reflects the lack of understanding of causality. For example, which is more helpful, giving money to the Rwandan government or educating the Rwandan people? This cause and effect confusion is common among conservatives. These are the same kind of fiscal conservatives who believe in trickle-down economics and social conservatives who want to deny HPV vaccines to adolescent females. Last year, scientists found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work. As noted earlier, there isn't a clear distinction between either camp; I will generalize only for the sake of brevity. According to this study published last year in Nature Neuroscience (source), liberal brains are fitter. In a rapid response testyou press a button if you're given one signal, but not if you're given a different signalthe authors found that conservatives were "more likely to make errors of commission," whereas "stronger liberalism was correlated with greater accuracy." They concluded that "a more conservative orientation is related to greater persistence in a habitual response pattern, despite signals that this response pattern should change." From the same authors: "Liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty." New York University, which helped fund the study, concluded, "Liberals are more likely than are conservatives to respond to cues signaling the need to change habitual responses." The study's main author, NYU professor David Amodio, stated that "liberals tended to be more sensitive and responsive to information that might conflict with their habitual way of thinking." The study suggests that conservatives have an inflexible way of thinking, a resistance to change, and a lesser ability to cope with change. It implies that conservatives, on average, are adaptively weaker at thinking, not just button-pushing. This implication has permeated the press. The L.A. Times told readers that the study "suggests that liberals are more adaptable than conservatives" and "might be better judges of the facts." The Guardian asserted, "Scientists have found that the brains of people calling themselves liberals are more able to handle conflicting and unexpected information." Agence France Presse reported that conservatives in the study "were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits 'despite signals that this ... should be changed.' " While I think that some of these editorializations are unneccessary--and even outlandish--I find these studies consistant with my day-to-day interaction with people. To be fair, other studies show that conservatives are happier (source), and Her Conservative Magesty, Ann Coulter says that, "felons are smarter than Liberals." (source). Does this mean that a liberal felon is a genius? As I've written in this forum before, I believe that a bit of conservatism is good. Without the senate in the government, or wise old Uncle Bob, I think that people could be prone to demagoguery. In fact, I believe that liberals could be more prone to the herd mentality that caused the Wal-Mart incident a few weeks back--conservatives are more likely to stick with the status quo, rather than join the lemmings. And now comes the triumphalism: raise your hand if youve ever known anyone who started out life as a liberal, but changed into a conservative--or even the reverse. Can this simple fact be proof positive that liberals and conservatives are inherently, possibly even neurologically, different and incapable of "switching over"? Let's break the study it down: 1. Habitual ways of thinking. Either the letter "M" or "W" was presented in the center of a computer monitor screen. Half of the participants were instructed to make a "Go" response when they saw "M" but to make no response when they saw "W"; the remaining participants completed a version in which "W" was the Go stimulus and "M" was the NoGo stimulus. Responses were registered on a computer keyboard placed in the participants' laps. 2. Responsiveness to information. Each trial began with a fixation point, presented for 500 ms. The target then appeared for 100 ms, followed by a blank screen. Participants were instructed to respond within 500 ms of target onset. A "Too slow!" warning message appeared after responses that exceeded this deadline, and "Incorrect" feedback was given after erroneous responses. 3. Complexity and ambiguity. Participants were shown an M or a W and had to quickly identify them, without enough time to think consciously about what they were doing. Conservatives made more errors than liberals. 4. Maladaptiveness. The scientific core of the study is a hypothesized brain function called "conflict monitoring." The reason why liberals scored better than conservatives, the authors argued, is that the brain area responsible for this function was, by electrical measurement of the anterior cingulate cortex, more active in them than in conservatives. Here's more from the L.A. Times article: "Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions. The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research." "Participants were college students whose politics ranged from 'very liberal' to 'very conservative.'" "Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy." "Sulloway said 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." "Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas." "'There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,' said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals."