Conservatives have a harder time breaking habits

2008/02/08

In October, Nature Neuroscience reported a study implying that politically conservative Americans have a harder time acting against habit than their liberal peers.

In these experiments, the subjects were asked to perform a monotonous, habit-forming task: pushing a button in response to a frequent “GO” cue. Every once in a while, a “NO GO” cue would prompt the subjects to act contrary to their newly formed habit. Subjects who considered themselves politically conservative made more mistakes in response to the “NO GO” cue than their liberal peers.

Furthermore, liberal brains produced a more robust response to habit-challenging cues in the anterior cingulate cortex, the brain region involved in decision making.

What do we do with these findings? Not much. Establishing correlation between local brain activity, behavior in simple tasks or lifestyle choices is only a first step in formulating more general theories for the biological basis of cognition and behavior.

Still, I will surely use this little study to poke fun at my conservative friends, “Ah, you are just having a hard time responding to conflicting stimuli —”

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2 Responses to “Conservatives have a harder time breaking habits”

  1. db Says:

    I dont know if this test alone is enough to conclude that political conservatives have a harder time acting against habit.

    But it is still pretty funny. Right now I am in the middle of an email debate with a hardcore, muslim nations are too evil to even deserve democracy, conservative. So reading this post was particularly enjoyable today.

  2. Dimitri Says:

    Dimitri said…
    This test alone is probably sufficient to conclude that there are tangible cognitive differences between people inclined to be politically conservative or liberal. But the causation may be reverse: conservatism/liberalism induces cognitive change. Correlation vs. causation again.

    You would probably enjoy the studies concluding that conservatives are more easily disgusted too


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