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Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans

15 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 5 Sep 2009

Darren M. Schreiber

University of Exeter

Alan N. Simmons

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Taru Flagan

affiliation not provided to SSRN

James H. Fowler

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Martin P. Paulus

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

We matched public voter records to 54 subjects who performed a risk-taking task during functional imaging. We find that Democrats and Republicans had significantly different patterns of brain activation during processing of risky decisions. Amygdala activations, associated with externally directed reactions to risk, are stronger in Republicans, while insula activations, associated with internally directed reactions to affective perceptions, are stronger in Democrats. These results suggest an internal vs. external difference in evaluative process that illuminates and resolves a discrepancy in the existing literature. This process-based approach to political partisanship is distinct from the policy-based approach that has dominated research for at least the past half century. In fact, a two parameter model of partisanship based on amygdala and insula activations achieves better accuracy in predicting whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican than a well established model in political science based on parental socialization of party identification.

Suggested Citation

Schreiber, Darren M. and Simmons, Alan N. and Dawes, Christopher T. and Flagan, Taru and Fowler, James H. and Paulus, Martin P., Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451867

Darren M. Schreiber (Contact Author)

University of Exeter ( email )

Northcote House
The Queen's Drive
Exeter, Devon EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://politicsemerging.com

Alan N. Simmons

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://dss.ucsd.edu/~cdawes/

Taru Flagan

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

James H. Fowler

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Martin P. Paulus

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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