Scientists show that conservatives and liberals are thick

Renaissance man Colin Firth has in his spare time been dabbling in neuroscience research. His Royal Majesty Master Firth of the Firmament is credited as co-author of a peer-reviewed paper which looks at physical differences between the brains of liberals and conservatives.

According to a BBC News report, Firth’s research shows that…

“…Liberal and Conservative attitudes were associated with thicker areas of parts of the brain.”

Talk about the bleedin’ obvious. Surely it doesn’t take two big-brained PhDs, a Hollywood film star and a breakfast radio science reporter to tell us this.

In their paper, University College London cognitive scientists Ryota Kanai and Geraint Rees, together with celebrity film and television actor Firth and BBC journalist Tom Feilden, show that political liberalism is associated with the grey matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain, while conservatism correlates with increased right amygdala size.

To be honest, I’m not altogether sure what that means, or indeed how significant it is. And if that’s not bad enough, I cannot see anything in the paper which looks like a proper definition of “liberal” or “conservative”. All we have is self-description on the part of the study participants, which isn’t particularly helpful. Or rigorous.

This is after all a country in which it is possible for online everyman to state in one flourish of digits on keyboard that we live in a nanny state, and in the next that immigration and multiculturalism are destroying the British way of life. There’s nowt so queer as folk.

Further reading

Kanai et al., “Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults”, Current Biology 21, 677 (2011)