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Brain structure may be related to political opinions

A new study has revealed that our brain’s structure may have a significant influence on our political preferences. A certain shape of the brain was found to be a strong predictor that individuals would find the current social system desirable and legitimate.

The research team used neuroimaging to observe which study participants were more likely to accept things the way they are and which participants were more likely to have political opinions that strongly oppose the order of society.

The study showed that individuals who had a larger volume of the amygdala, a region of the brain that is responsible for fear and other emotions, were found to be less likely to challenge the current social system or engage in political movements.

This type of “system justification” is strongly linked to conservatives.

“A system-justifying psychological orientation favors the social, economic, and political status quo, and may promote vigilance to social hierarchy and a preference for ideologies that characterize extant inequality as legitimate and necessary,” wrote the researchers.

Study co-author Jay Van Bavel is an associate professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. He explained that brain structure likely influences what political movement or parties we find appealing.

Van Bavel said that it is also likely that, as our political views change, there is a corresponding change in the brain’s structure. “Virtually any change in behavior is mirrored by a change in brain structure,” said Van Bavel.

The research also corroborates the theory that political preferences are substantially influenced by genetics. “It seems quite likely that these biological predispositions are manifested in brain structure,” explained Van Bavel.

The study authors concluded: “The findings suggest that the amygdala may provide a neural substrate for maintaining the societal status quo, and opens up avenues for further investigation into the association between system justification and other neuroanatomical regions.”

The research is published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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