I got issues: Why did people vote for Trump? Hypervigilance

We’ve done Reason One — The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Now let’s do…

Reason Two Why Someone Might Have Voted For Trump

The study underlying this reason is the most exciting and soothing thing I’ve found. If you, like me, have been writhing and suffering over the big question — why did people vote for Trump? — take careful note about this. For me, I find it’s relieved me of the great liberal burden of our time: how do we understand, respect, empathize with, converse with and bring back to sanity people who voted for Trump?

The answer: we can’t. One of their brain parts, the amygdala, is like this.

I have a couple of questions a further study might answer. First, is it only nature that creates this kind of amygdala? Is nuture, perhaps in infancy, a contributing factor? And — aside from the pretty radical procedure that can change the brain (read on, curious folk, but a warning to men: you’ll wince) — is there any way in which the amygdala can be affected in adults?

Hypersensitivity to Threat

The conservative brain is constructed to react in an exaggerated way to anything perceived as threatening.

Notice the word “perceived.” (And the word “exaggerated.”) They’re important. The threat is not necessarily real but the conservative brain reacts as if it is real.

Here’s the abstract of the study analyzing this from the journal, Science. It’s a pretty amazing read:

Political attitudes vary with physiological traits.


Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals’ experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats.

Isn’t that something? I highlighted the most “something” part of it.

Even more. A study published in Current Biology shows that conservatives’ brains have a larger amygdala!* This is the explanation that just knocks me out. “He couldn’t control voting for Trump: his amygdala is larger than mine.”

No need to argue, to present facts to someone who voted for Trump. No need to accuse them of having allowed their minds to be invaded and possessed by Fox. Just say, “Oh, you can’t help yourself, you poor thing. Your amygdala is swollen.”

I’m sure they’ll deeply appreciate both the condescension and the erudition.

Here are the highlights from the study:

  • Political liberalism and conservatism were correlated with brain structure
  • Liberalism was associated with the gray matter volume of anterior cingulate cortex
  • Conservatism was associated with increased right amygdala size
  • Results offer possible accounts for cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives

Trump’s endless fear-mongering of the “other” has a hypnotic effect on the conservative brain. It hits the amygdala big time.

So a larger amygdala isn’t anything to brag about. Indeed, it’s become my fave reason for everything I shrink from in distaste and horror. “I’m pointing the finger at you, distended amygdala!” “Puffed up amygdala!” “Trump owns your amygdala!”

Love it. Well, no, I hate it. But there it is.

Have any scientists figured out how to shrink amygdalas to normal, i.e., liberal size?*

On the other hand, have scientists paid for by the Koch Bros, et al, found a way to enlarge amygdalas, say, before birth?

Oh goody. Let’s start a lovely conspiracy.

*Almost as if to answer my question, the link says that after castration the male amygdala shrinks 30 percent. Take that, all you nutcases bearing heavy firearms.


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