Recent studies detailed in the YouTube video linked below show that liberals have a larger anterior cingulate gyrus. That is a part of the brain that is responsible for taking in new information and using that new information on decision making or choices.
Conservatives tended to have a larger right amygdala. The amygdala is a deeper brain structure that processes more emotional information, specifically fear based information. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for the flight or fight response.
While this is not universal, and there are lots of people in the middle, if you just go by structural size difference in these two areas, you can determine who is liberal and who is conservative 71.6% of the time.
Now they don’t know if people are born with these different sizes and that influences future affiliation, or if these parts of the brain grew to larger sizes in youth because these people were raised with liberal or conservative parents, and shaped the brain because it is elastic. They were taught to believe a certain way. In fact studies show one can predict with a certainty of 69.5% what you will be from what your parents are.
These studies show that conservatives tend to rate higher in areas of stability, loyalty, not liking change, being religiously involved in terms of decision making. These same studies show liberals have a stronger rating for liking change, base decision making on new information, and science based information.
How does this affect somebody in practical terms? If you have the brain structure of a conservative, when you are hearing something new, if that new information makes you nervous and afraid, then you are going to resort to the old standby “I don’t want to listen or believe this new information.” If you have the brain structure of a liberal, you can hear the same information, and say “Oh, that’s novel, therefore that is interesting to me, and I want to learn more.”
There are obviously lots of applications to religion and the Mormon Church. Having a large right amygdala would seem like the prerequisite to being called to be an apostle: stability, loyalty, not liking change, being religiously involved in terms of decision making. Having that large anterior cingulate gyrus would make you an ideal nuanced Mormon, and a frequent reader of this blog: stronger rating for liking change, base decision making on new information, and science based information.
While these traits seem to fit quite well with people we know in the Church, how does it work with non-members that the missionaries are trying to convert? It would seem that missionaries would need to look for just the opposite of what would make a good apostle. If you knocked on the door of a Baptist, and they had a large right amygdala, they are going to be loyal to their own church, and not keen on making a change. Yet a Presbyterian with large gyrus is going to be open to listening to the missionaries, might be looking for a change, and will base their decision to join based on the new information. The Baptist above won’t even listen to the new information because it makes them feel uncomfortable, while the Presbyterian will crave learning something new.
But then who of the new converts makes the best long term member? If the Baptist above were to overcome their fears (be touched by the spirit), and both were to be baptized, which one is more likely to be active in five years? The former Baptist that is loyal to his new church and does not like change, or the former Presbyterian who is still craving to learn something new, and is reading the CES letter, the church essays, finds out about the temple ban of blacks before 1978, and says “I’m going to think about whether I might change my mind based on this new information”.
What about you, do you have a larger anterior cingulate gyrus or larger right amygdala?