"The number of partisan brains is increasing"

although the brains themselves aren’t getting any bigger…

Is This Column Futile?
March 14, 2006
(CBS) This commentary was written by’s Dick Meyer.

Is political persuasion mostly useless? Is the percentage of people essentially immune to rational argument about political things increasing?

A psychologist in Atlanta and a business school professor in Syracuse, N.Y., have interesting observations on these sorts of questions from the entirely different perspectives of neuroscience and public opinion research. The good news may be that the partisan lout in your office who absolutely will not listen to reason may not be at fault; he may just be a slave to his ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The bad news is that these louts may be becoming more prevalent ÷ and more loutish.

At Emory University, psychologist Drew Westen and his team conducted what they believe is the first study of “the neural basis of any form of political decision making.” They did this by using brain imaging to study people as they processed political information during the 2004 campaign.

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