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Author Topic: Are Your Political Beliefs Hardwired?  (Read 1209 times)
Bryan Conner
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« on: November 05, 2012, 02:04:32 PM »
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Smithsonian.com had a very interesting article about whether a persons political beliefs are hardwired, learned, or both.  I think the recent marathon thread/debate/discussion on healthcare could be a good example of people having differing opinions that may be hardwired into their brains as much as being an opinion based on information.  The article can be read here.
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Ray
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2012, 07:36:20 AM »
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Smithsonian.com had a very interesting article about whether a persons political beliefs are hardwired, learned, or both.  I think the recent marathon thread/debate/discussion on healthcare could be a good example of people having differing opinions that may be hardwired into their brains as much as being an opinion based on information.  The article can be read here.

The short answer is, what we are, is always an interaction between our genetic make-up and our environment, and that environment includes, of course, all cultural influences, individual traumas, family upbringing, quality of schooling, and, let's not forget, the environment in the womb before birth.

If a woman wishes to give her unborn child the best future as a concert pianist, then I believe it would be good advice to recommend she play lots  piano works from Chopin and Listz , and lots of Beethoven piano sonatas on the home hi fi system. Her unborn baby will hear it, and such experiences will later influence the child, and later the adult's appreciation of classical music.

Perhaps the most graphic illustration that I've seen, of this problem of determining to what extent one's genes or one's upbringing are responsible for one's later choice of vocation, and one's talents and social attitudes, etc, was an educational TV program on the subject of psychopathic behaviour. (We have some very educational TV programs in Australia).  Grin

In brief, a neuroscientist was presented with some brain scans of psychopaths who had been convicted of some serious crimes. The project was to find out if psychopaths' brains were sort of 'hard-wired' in a particular way that resulted in a total lack of empathy and compassion for others.

The neuroscientist did in fact discover something quite remarkable. The images, MRI scans, of the pscyopaths' brains were in fact clearly different in fairly dramatic and obvious ways from MRI scans of so-called normal people. There was great excitement of a possible break-through in understanding psychopathic behaviour.

However, something even more remarkable was later observed. The neuroscientist doing the research was presented with an MRI scan of his own brain, which he (unwittingly) included with all the psychopaths' brain scans, not due to a mistake, but because his own brain scan resembled that of the psychopaths.

When he later learned that his own brain scan resembled that of a psychopath, he was of course rather disturbed, and began asking members of his family to tell him the truth. Had he appeared to them to be an odd or unusual sort of child, youth and man. They told him frankly, that he was and had been.

The conclusion is that hard-wiring along particular lines will always exert some influence on a person's behaviour and attitudes, but is not an inflexible determinant. The neuroscientist's upbringing and education was sufficient to largely counteract the socially negative influences of a particular type of hard-wiring that in others, with a deficient and troubled upbringing, might result in psychopathic behaviour.

Now what has this got to do with photography? Well, the words 'graphic', 'image' and 'scan' have been used.  Grin

« Last Edit: November 07, 2012, 07:46:23 AM by Ray » Logged
Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2012, 09:54:31 AM »
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Nothing but gut feel on my part, but we're probably hard-wired to be tribal. Once people identify with a tribe, they tend to defend the tribe to great lengths. It can Nikon vs Canon, GM vs Ford, or warring political parties.

There's another thread on this board where some folks got into an argument about who invents things (by that they probably meant a combination of think up, design, create, build, market, etc.), with some arguing that private enterprise creates things and that governments hamper it, while others argued the reverse. Ten seconds of sober thought should lead one to realize that throughout history new ideas came from all kinds of places and people, including the Soviet Union, university labs, private companies, guys in basements, non-profit think tanks, etc. But tribal affiliation prevents people from seeing, or at least acknowledging that.

A lot of people cannot handle shades of grey.

Why? It's probably primordial, the wolf pack kills outsiders. Some people may think that it is a sign of weakness to listen to new or at least different ideas. Others are too lazy. Who knows. It is certainly tiresome to listen to. As an example, a lot of people think that it was private enterprise that brought about the electronic revolution, when it was obviously everyone acting in concert that did it. But in the case of the electronic revolution, I would argue that it was publicly sponsored research by thousands of physics grad students in the 1920s to 1960s (and later) who did work in all kinds of seemingly irrelevant and obscure topics (that might garner ridicule in newspapers) that gave rise to what we now call Solid State Physics and that's what led to our computers and cell phones. I am not taking anything away from the creative engineers who built the boxes we use, I used to be one, but let's not let them take too much credit either.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2012, 11:23:10 AM »
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... some arguing that private enterprise creates things and that governments hamper it, while others argued the reverse...

While the first part seems correct (some indeed argued so), I do not recall anyone arguing "the reverse."
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2012, 11:40:21 AM »
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I guess you're right. I glossed over things a bit too rapidly.
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niznai
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« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2012, 05:29:18 AM »
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Mine are stuck on with bluetac.
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2012, 07:29:12 AM »
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As with pretty much everything, it's a matter of nature & nurture, not nature or nurture.

Human traits, thinking & behaviour lie along a continuum. Psychopathy is part of that continuum. Some of the traits we see in people clinically diagnosed as psychopaths, are also seen in other people. It is a matter of degree of organic difference (including genetics, but also changing brain architecture as a person matures - which in turn mediates further development & interactions), and social/environmental issues that influence the developing brain. It's a complex matter, this growing brains thingy. Trust me, I'm a psychologist.

The same sort of thing applies in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which includes what we term 'Asperger's syndrome'. Lots of people show 'autistic' tendancies. In fact, most men do so, to some variable degree. It's certainly men more than women. As Hans Asperger suggested, autism is an extreme of male intelligence. But short of what we see as a clinical picture of autism, there are all sorts of things that count as 'tendancies', and people display them to a greater or lesser extent.

The same will apply to political beliefs - a certain tendancy might exist because of the hardwiring in the brain. Nurture then kicks in, and can infact influence the further development of that hardwiring. The old Jesuit saw (attributed to Francis Xavier) applies - "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man". Those early influences stick.

Interestingly, psychopathic traits are quite common amongst businessmen. A near single-minded determination to succeed, without too much concern for the impact decisions have on people (as opposed to a balance sheet), would be quite typical of a psychopath, but equally beneficial in terms of power & a hard-headed, cut-throat business world too.
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hjulenissen
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2012, 07:36:25 AM »
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It should be possible to check political belief in adult twins that were separated at birth. If there is a tendency to vote like their biological parents, we might assume that there is a significant inherited component. If there is a tendency to vote like foster parents, we might assume that there is a significant cultural component.

I tend to think that people try to blend in - i.e. the political beliefs of most people is a reflection of what the people in their surroundings believe.

-h
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Justan
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2012, 09:24:59 AM »
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Thanks for posting the article.

On the surface the article appears to question the possibility of determining political views, but as I read it, the primary goal appeared to be one of finding ways to manipulate views. The related content spelled out that they were talking about the psychology of politics as a primary goal rather than trying to determine if people were “hard wired” (most are, but an important minority can and do decide most elections).

The machine that is the human brain works along the same kind of bell curve that most machines work along. We all know that for the majority, political views are somewhere between largely fixed and totally fixed. In the end, the political process we in the US just emerged from is one of playing mostly to the so-called independent voters.

The fact that trying to get the vote of the independent voter is the major goal for both parties is self-evident, and there is a vast amount of research that goes into this process. Of course, the independent voter is no brighter or dumber than party loyalists, but they always become a major focus if not the major focus of every election cycle, and successfully influencing this group is usually the path to victory.

So in answer to the question, history shows that for the vast majority of the population their perception of politics is largely unchanging, however, if one were to view political battles in the US over longer periods, say, about the last 100 years or so, they would detect a gradual shift away from the right. The shift is due to the results that the predominantly successful right wing influence has produced in this time. I think that seeing what influences voter choices over longer periods of time is far more important a source of study than trying to determine if most people are stuck with an idee fixe. In the end, that question has been answered.
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