Monday, April 23, 2012

The Conservative Mind

As you may already know, there appears to be increasing evidence for the difference in brain structure for people with conservative beliefs compared to people with liberal opinions. This has been discussed in the media (e.g. here: but what I would like to discuss is how this might affect everyday life.

I believe conservatism serves an important role for humanity, just like the fish in a school that are afraid to discover new territories. They may become disadvantageous for not achieving the resources the more brave fish do but they also might survive a predator that is lurking in the unknown.

Conservatives seem to have larger and more efficient brain structures for processing fear, while liberals tend to have larger structures for decision-making. It's not a competition, but to me it would seem that liberals do in fact have better biological characteristics for - wait for it -  decision-making. This suggests that liberal-minded people perform better than conservatives in settings where making decisions is key, for example in leadership positions. Still, liberals are not crushingly visible in politics for a variety of reasons.

Democracy. Event though there must be plenty of people who want a person with supposedly higher skills for decision-making, there probably is at least the same amount of people who think that something else is more important. Something that arouses their fear. Foreigners, gays, socialism, science, who knows, it's a scary world out there. For people with conservative beliefs, fear is more important than precise capabilities to decide. But are there more conservatives than liberals? How can there ever be any change?

I believe liberal beliefs always prevail in the end. Just have a look at humanity at the present moment. What we've discovered and how we've evolved. We're not living in caves anymore. The liberals of the Stone Age wanted progress. So did the liberals of the Middle Ages. Even though there are always times when we revert to old ways and go backwards in progress because of fear, humankind tends to go forward in the end. We tend to evolve culturally. This is why I'm not strongly repulsed by conservatives throwing their fearful guesses about political issues in the air, because I know there will be a time for that and there will be a time for progress as well. And even conservatives of today are far more liberal than conservatives of yesterday, which proves the comforting thought that the world is moving forward, not backwards.

Never stop looking forward.