Of the big five personality traits, there seems to be several key differences between liberals and conservatives. Science is revealing the biological differences between the brains of both groups that explain these personality differences, where they exist, between liberals and conservatives. Let’s take a look at some of the findings of a recent study of the brain structural differences between liberals and conservatives.
Liberals and Conservatives may have different brains according to science, but openness as a personality trait has the strongest correlation with one’s political affiliation. Liberals tend to rank higher on openness than conservatives. They value novelty and rank high on curiosity. This is not necessarily good or bad, since it means that liberals are more likely to value something that is perceived new, even if it is an old concept wrapped in a new label.
Conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala compared to liberals; this could be seen as being more fearful or having improved threat recognition, depending on one’s point of view. For example, conservatives are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions, something that historically improved one’s odds of recognizing a potential assailant.
Conscientiousness is a personality trait tied to being diligent, disciplined, organized and rule abiding. Conservatives tend to rank much higher than liberals on conscientiousness. Conservatives also see liberals’ lack of conscientiousness as risky because it is so arbitrary and can change so easily.
The black-white or strict morality that comes with conscientiousness has traditionally be ascribed to religious conservatives, but Dr. Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto found this trait to exist in social justice warriors (liberal authoritarians) as well.
This trait gives little room for nuance. Liberals have mostly abandoned the strict conservative rules regarding sex, but have in its place applied similar conscientiousness rules to food, such as free range, organic, fair trade, vegetarian or vegan.
Liberals tend to have a larger ACC, which is associated with controlling emotional arousal and response to emotional events. Some have taken this to mean that liberals are less biased or are more logical, but the more certain interpretation is a higher tolerance for complexity called cognitive flexibility. This can lead to more nuanced worldviews or complex rationalizations that are otherwise contrary to common moral codes, depending on the person and the circumstances. Therefore, you cannot take this average difference in brain structure to mean one group is more moral than the other.
How Biased Might These Political Personality Studies Themselves Be?
Heterodox Academy’s 2015 paper on the lack of political diversity in the social sciences revealed that there are fifteen liberals for every conservative in the social sciences. Liberals seem to be overrepresented in online master in political science courses. However, since the recent changes in administration, more and more right wingers are seeking a master’s in political science online.
This means all of the above is only a generalization and shouldn’t be used to assign stereotypes to one group or another. While general descriptions of personality trait differences tied to political preferences are likely correct, the demonstrable and severe liberal bias in the social sciences to the point that you get studies (and headlines) proclaiming a political group is stupid, irrational or inherently wrong, should be taken with more than a grain of salt.