Were you born to be a Democrat, or do you always cast a ballot for the Republican Party?
There might soon be an odd new way to find out—and one that has nothing to do with your perspective on the economy. A quick brain scan seems to reveal a person’s political affiliation with impressive accuracy, finds new research.
The study, from the University of Exeter and the University of California, San Diego, evaluated the brain activity of 82 subjects engaged in gambling games. Then, researchers compared participants’ cerebral activity to their declared political parties. While Republicans and Democrats took similar risks during the games, the brain activity that prompted those risks was extremely different.
Among participants who voted Democrat, gray matter showed more activation in the left posterior insula, the region linked with empathy and emotion. The other side of the brain was Republican territory: conservatives flexed their right amygdala more often when making decisions. That brain region is associated with fear, reward, and a fight-or-flight response.
Incredibly, these differences were so pronounced that brain activity alone allowed researchers to anticipate, with 83 percent accuracy, which party a study participant belonged to. By comparison, knowing the party affiliation of an individual’s parents allows for 69 percent accuracy when making the same prediction, researchers noted in their study.
And political affiliation isn’t the only weird factoid that a brain scan might reveal.
Here, three recent neuro-findings that may explain various personality traits (and how to trump your own gray matter if it doesn’t predispose you to them):
You’re creative. Last year, research published in Scientific Reports found that when rap singers improvise rhymes, certain regions of their brains exhibit an activity pattern that best supports creativity. Fortunately, you don’t need to be Jay-Z to score creativity credibility. Unlock your creative power by engaging in spontaneous behavior, such as writing a story without deciding on its plot beforehand, or doodling without a clear sense of what you want to draw.
You’re getting gullible. A recent experiment from the University of California, Los Angeles studied how people in two age groups—20-somethings and the over-55 set—reacted to a series of faces. While undergoing a brain scan, participants rated each face as trustworthy, neutral, or untrustworthy. Members of the older population were consistently less able to identify untrustworthy faces. Turns out, they also experienced limited activation in their anterior insula—the part of the brain associated with recognizing negative emotions. (Help your brain beat gullibility at any age with our 10 Ways To Keep Your Mind Sharp.)
You have a way with words. If you’re lucky enough to know two languages, then you’ve also got a more flexible brain than those of us stuck with just one tongue. Using fMRI scans, researchers reporting in The Journal of Neuroscience revealed that bilingual participants required less energy in their brain’s frontal cortex—the area associated with short-term memory and mental dexterity—when completing various tasks. Short of learning German, what’s a gal to do?
“A huge amount of research shows that activities to stimulate cognition are very valuable," says John L. Woodard, a professor of psychology and an aging expert at Wayne State University. "It doesn't need to be a second language. Play an instrument, join a choir, try creative writing, travel more often, or visit more museums. All of these will help."