From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Mon 30 Jan 2006 - 23:01:12 GMT
At 10:53 PM 1/28/2006 -0500, I wrote:
> Intercommunicating human minds are the environment for memes.
On another list (Shock Level 4) a participant posted a pointer that lead here:
This study--about how human minds work--has direct application to
memetics. I have made an EP based case in my paper on EP war and memes
that the ability to reason is suppressed in people operating in "war mode,"
and the gain of xenophobic memes is turned up.
According to what these researchers found, it looks like the process is
much more general, or perhaps "politics is just a continuation of war by
other means." :-) I love the image of twirling the cognitive kaleidoscope.
By Emory University Health Sciences Center, When it comes to forming
opinions and making judgments on hot political issues, partisans of both
parties don't let facts get in the way of their decision-making, according
to a new Emory University study. The research sheds light on why staunch
Democrats and Republicans can hear the same information, but walk away with
The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of
committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the
U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were
given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening
information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects
underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the
researchers found was striking.
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally
engaged during reasoning," says Drew Westen, director of clinical
psychology at Emory who led the study. "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." Westen and his colleagues will present their findings
at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social
Psychology Jan. 28.
Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially
finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted
-- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.
"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly
engaged," says Westen. "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."
During the study, the partisans were given 18 sets of stimuli, six each
regarding President George W. Bush, his challenger, Senator John Kerry, and
politically neutral male control figures such as actor Tom Hanks. For each
set of stimuli, partisans first read a statement from the target (Bush or
Kerry). The first statement was followed by a second statement that
documented a clear contradiction between the target's words and deeds,
generally suggesting that the candidate was dishonest or pandering.
Next, partisans were asked to consider the discrepancy, and then to rate
the extent to which the person's words and deeds were contradictory.
Finally, they were presented with an exculpatory statement that might
explain away the apparent contradiction, and asked to reconsider and again
rate the extent to which the target's words and deeds were contradictory.
Behavioral data showed a pattern of emotionally biased reasoning: partisans
denied obvious contradictions for their own candidate that they had no
difficulty detecting in the opposing candidate. Importantly, in both their
behavioral and neural responses, Republicans and Democrats did not differ
in the way they responded to contradictions for the neutral control
targets, such as Hanks, but Democrats responded to Kerry as Republicans
responded to Bush.
While reasoning about apparent contradictions for their own candidate,
partisans showed activations throughout the orbital frontal cortex,
indicating emotional processing and presumably emotion regulation
strategies. There also were activations in areas of the brain associated
with the experience of unpleasant emotions, the processing of emotion and
conflict, and judgments of forgiveness and moral accountability.
Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning (as
well as conscious efforts to suppress emotion). The finding suggests that
the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments likely occur
outside of awareness, and are distinct from normal reasoning processes when
emotion is not so heavily engaged, says Westen.
The investigators hypothesize that emotionally biased reasoning leads to
the "stamping in" or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the
participant's "revisionist" account of the data with positive emotion or
relief and elimination of distress. "The result is that partisan beliefs
are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Westen
The study has potentially wide implications, from politics to business, and
demonstrates that emotional bias can play a strong role in decision-making,
Westen says. "Everyone from executives and judges to scientists and
politicians may reason to emotionally biased judgments when they have a
vested interest in how to interpret 'the facts,' " Westen says.
Coauthors of the study include Pavel Blagov and Stephan Hamann of the Emory
Department of Psychology, and Keith Harenski and Clint Kilts of the Emory
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
- Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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