So, building on last night’s potential revelation, let’s review what we may or may not know about amygdalas.
I had read (summaries of) studies indicating that conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals. From this I concluded that amygdalas were likely to be involved in some sort of processing that produces more conservative results.
But what does the amygdala do? Articles indicated involvement in the disgust reflex. I concluded that people who are more easily disgusted are just more likely to feel disgust in response to novelty.
But, Frost brings up a good point: has the initial orientation/amygdala data been confounded by researchers failing to control for ethnicity? If researchers have classed, say, Muslims who vote Labour as liberals, then obviously the data is meaningless?
There is an to solve this conundrum: Just find some data that controls for ethnicity and measures liberalness or conservatism, (rather than use self-reported orientation). If no suitable studies exist, do one–go to some rural college, collect an ethnically similar cohort, give them a quiz about their attitudes toward novel foods and other such non-emotionally charged things that seem to correlate with political orientation, and then scan the brains of equal numbers of liberals and conservatives and see what you get. If you find some sort of correlation, repeat the experiment with other ethnicities. If you find nothing, widen your scope to compare whites from different areas, or whites who are further apart in political orientation. If you still find nothing, do a multi-ethnic study and see if the initial results were just ethnic differences in party affiliation.
Recent articles further indicate that my interpretations may have been wrong, or that the picture is more complicated than I realized, eg, Neural and cognitive characteristics of extraordinary altruists, “Functional imaging and behavioral tasks included face-emotion processing paradigms that reliably distinguish psychopathic individuals from controls. Here we show that extraordinary altruists can be distinguished from controls by their enhanced volume in right amygdala and enhanced responsiveness of this structure to fearful facial expressions, an effect that predicts superior perceptual sensitivity to these expressions. These results mirror the reduced amygdala volume and reduced responsiveness to fearful facial expressions observed in psychopathic individuals.”
This does not support my “conservatives have larger disgust reflexes becuz amygdalas,” theory, but would be consistent with a “extremely conservative people were mis-categorized as liberals in other studies,” result.
More research is necessary.