Researchers of clinical psychology at Emory University have found that Democrats and Republicans alike are quite adept at making decisions without letting the facts get in the way. The study monitored the brain activity of staunch party members from both parties as they were asked to evaluate information that threatened their preferred candidate in the lead up to the 2004 Presidential election.

According to Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University, there was no increased activity in the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”

According to the report test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring On both sides of the political aisle information that could not rationally be discounted was ignored allowing the subject to reach a totally biased conclusion. Then interestingly, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions while activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward. This reaction is similar to the brain response a drug addict experience when they get a fix.

“None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged, essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.” Said Westen.

The researchers, who will present their findings tomorrow at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, conclude the study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making. Not only that but they suggest that everyone from executives and judges and even scientists may reason to emotionally biased judgments when they have a vested interest in how to interpret ‘the facts.’

Political brains scanned