Hey, baby, check out my big old sexy amygdala.

Happy Saturday! I’m at work right now. I’m writing to you from the PAAASSSTTTT. Like a GHOST. Aren’t you so scared? Yeah, thought so. I’m fear-inspiring.

It’s going to be a long day – work, then meeting friends at the theater who are coming in from out of town to see the show we’re doing right now (Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention – I saw a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago and it was wonderful, I can’t wait to see it with all the bells and whistles! And, also exciting to see my friends, haven’t seen them since right after Christmas!) then home and I will collapse into bed like a dead person and sleep and sleep and then back to it on Sunday, blogging and blogging and blogging and then ushering for the matinée performance and then coming home and MORE BLOGGING so I can get ahead of the game a little, because next week is a busy one, too. WHOO! Aren’t you exhausted just thinking about it? I am.

OK, so I don’t know how much I have in me, and this is kind of probably bigger than me, but I thought it was interesting, especially in an election year, so let’s see how it goes.

I found this article the other day about our minds, and why we might be predisposed to be either liberal or conservative. I don’t think it’s the best article – it seems lacking in a few things – but it does raise some interesting points.

It wouldn’t surprise you that Dad calls these the elephant and the asshole, right? Probably not.

The author, Chris Mooney, wrote a book that really doesn’t hide his feelings about whether he rides a donkey or an elephant to work – The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality – thinks that we are more apt to be liberal or conservative based on where we fall on the Big Five Personality Test. I think we’re discussed this test before – it measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.

(Before I get going, here, this isn’t a conservative-bashing post. I promise. I may not be a conservative, but I know at least one good one. So I’m not insulting them here. Totally not. Read! You’ll see!)

According to Mooney, four of the traits tend slightly to measure your tendency to lean left or right, but one is the most telling of all – openness. How open you are to new experiences versus how concrete and black and white you see things. The more open you are to new experiences apparently means you’re more apt to be a liberal, while the more black and white you see things, you’re more apt to be a conservative.

(A couple of other interesting things – conservatives tend to be more extroverted than liberals and have more friends, apparently, and liberals tend to be more neurotic. Heh. No, no, not ME. ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?)

There’s a test at the bottom of the link where you can see where you fall – five questions, I got two that made me tend more toward conservatism, one that didn’t matter, one that made me more liberal, and one (the big, important “open to new experiences one” that’s supposed to be the only real one that matters) that says ZOMG AMY YOU ARE A LIBERAL.

Interesting, right?

There’s also this article, which says (and it’s also hinted at in the Mooney piece) that conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals. NO THAT’S NOT DIRTY. It’s a part of our brain that controls fear and primitive emotions. They also tend to have smaller anterior cingulates, which are the parts of the brain that control courage and optimism.

Look how sciency this is. Don’t you feel so impressed? I know I do.

So this article is saying that conservatives tend to be more fearful and less optimistic, which I guess would be why they want more structure in government, which is what conservative politicians tend to offer. And liberals, alternately, see things a little rosier, so are a little more apt to go for less governmental control. Right?

Aw, beagle with rose-colored glasses! This is a liberal beagle.

Both that article and this one hint at the fact that this is why fearmongering works in politics, and tends to work more efficiently with conservatives. (And that it’s a shitty tactic to use, no matter who it’s used on.)

Now, I find this all fascinating, but I think it leaves some things out. Sure, our brains might come into play – genetics, maybe, how we’re made. I like that idea, that even in the womb, we’re little liberals or conservatives just waiting to make our mark on the world. But I don’t think that’s all there is.

See, when I was young, I was around all conservatives all the time. I don’t think I knew a single liberal. I know you probably think of New York as a hotbed of liberalism, but upstate? They’re as conservative as they come up there. Gun-totin’, camo-wearin’, tobacco-spittin’ conservatives. I was brought up to believe that liberals were bad. Want to guess what Dad thinks about liberals? Yep. Dirty hippies, all. Lazy, dirty, hippies.

So I went off to college. In a big city. Downstate. You know what downstate means, right? LIBERALS LIBERALS DIRTY LIBERALS! And it just so happened that the first year I went to college was the first year I could vote, and ALSO an election year. The first Bill Clinton election year, actually. Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot. Aw, remember little Ross Perot, all spitfirey and wee? And weird. Also kind of weird.

Seriously, just on looks alone, look at your options. (Also, Bill Clinton? I have such a crush on the man. Even now. Sigh.)

Now, Bush was the incumbent. The incumbent usually wins, right? But Clinton. Do you guys remember how he was kind of cool and magical and, well, shit, hip? (Let’s be frank, Perot wasn’t winning that election. It was cute he was trying, though.)

I was 18, I was in college (I had escaped from my horrifying small town and wasn’t being bullied anymore – I had never felt so free in my life), and I started what I would do every single election year up until now, and will undoubtedly continue to do for the rest of my life – I researched the shit out of those two candidates. (I researched Perot a little, too, but kind of gave up. He was a weirdo. I didn’t want a weirdo running my country, and it felt like throwing my first real vote away.)

I looked at where the candidates stood on the issues. I thought about where I stood on the issues. And I realized – shit. I need to vote for Clinton.

Then – shit. Dad was going to FLIP. DIRTY DIRTY HIPPIES YOU GUYS.

I voted for Clinton. And man, did my dorm celebrate when he won. It felt good. It felt like we were a part of something big. Have I mentioned enough how much I love voting? Probably not enough. Probably not ever enough. Voting is my favorite thing. I’d vote daily if I could. On anything, really.

Oh, and Dad? FURIOUS. SO EFFING FURIOUS. “I didn’t raise a liberal” and “How could you do this to me” and “DIRTY LAZY HIPPIES WHO PLAY SAXOPHONES ARE RUNNING THE WORLD NOW BECAUSE OF YOU.” (He still blames college for “ruining” me. Not even kidding. Because I was SO WHOLE BEFORE I LEFT FOR COLLEGE. Gack.)

Anyway, this has been a really long tangent. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think it’s all genetics. I think it’s also the people you surround yourself with; it’s what you read; it’s what you watch (listen, don’t even tell me that Tina Fey’s take on Sarah Palin didn’t have an effect on the 2008 elections – yes, Obama probably would have won anyway, but people were pretty fired up about Palin for a while until she started…well…talking, and then Tina Fey came on and, well, were you going to vote for the candidate who could “see Russia from her houuuuse?” No, didn’t think so); it’s the social issues you think are important. I go down the list of where the candidates stand on the issues and I weigh it against where I stand on the issues and I vote for the person that most closely aligns with me.

Seriously, even one of the news channels accidentally used a photo of Tina Fey instead of Sarah Palin around that time. People couldn’t tell the difference. In other news: people are not bright.

So, sure. Maybe it’s genetics. But it’s kind of the old nature vs. nurture thing, isn’t it? Would I still be a liberal if I’d chosen to stay close to home, married someone from there, raised a big old farm family or something (gah gah gah can you even imagine how bad I’d be at that? I mean, sure, there’d be animals, but you’d NEVER get to play with them. You’d have to WORK. And also EAT them. No thanks), was surrounded by all conservatives being all shouty about how the liberals are ruining the country? If I hadn’t moved away, been surrounded by my people, most of whom, yes, were liberals, would I have swum like a salmon upstream and been the one little liberal in a town full of conservatives? I don’t know. I wonder about that. Who you are is made up of not only DNA, but experiences you have. People you meet.

So I’m undecided on this whole thing. I think it’s nice to think it’s hardwired, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. What about you? Think we’re genetically predisposed to be dirty hippies? Or do you think it’s more something we pick up from the people we know and the experiences we have?

This is every liberal ever, when Dad thinks about them. Also, I think he imagines this is all the men I date. HA! Fooled YOU, Dad. I DON’T DATE!

Oh, you probably want to know if Dad’s calmed down about this, right? Well, yes and no. There’s not as much shouting. (About that, anyway.) He’s accepted it. Our joke now is that our votes cancel each other out, so that seems to make him feel a liiiittle better. Oh, and also I found out that (I told you all this, I think?) his mom’s whole side of the family were super-liberals, going back back BACK. So apparently his mom and dad used to squabble about politics all the time. So don’t even tell me, DAD, that I’m the only one EVER with YOUR DNA that voted Democrat, don’t EVEN.

Happy Saturday, all. Have a lovely spring weekend. It’s Tulip Fest here this weekend! Because we’re all Dutch here! Nice, right? Here are some Albany tulips for you. Aren’t you so cheered? Sure you are.

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

22 responses to “Hey, baby, check out my big old sexy amygdala.

  • elaine4queen

    my tulips are over. i have pulled them up and put the bulbs in the shed. like a real person.

    but we haven’t seen any cygnets or ducklings or goslings. get a move on, wildfowl!

    Like

  • unexpecteddreamer

    Speaking of shows…are you planning on checking out Hair at the Cohoes Music Hall? It was pretty awesome. Just an FYI.

    Like

  • sj

    Hee! I am laughing really hard at that picture of your boyfriend. I can totally see you with him (no, I can’t).

    Er, the test says I’m liberal. I got liberal on all but one of the questions.

    Huh. Colour me surprised. [eye roll]

    Like

  • lahikmajoe

    This post has me thinking. I’m on an early flight in the morning, so I’ll have to come back and tell you later what I thought. But the whole liberal v conservative thing is even more interesting because of this stuff that you’ve cited.

    Even though we have a left-leaning and right-leaning party in Germany, it’s not so easy to split politics down the middle here. When I try to do that, my German friends roll their eyes.

    Be back for more of this soon.

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    • lucysfootball

      I made you think? Wow. That’s actually the best compliment I’ve gotten all day. (That sounds sarcastic. And was not meant to. I couldn’t be more flattered.) I can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Hurry and get home. Oh, and also? Be safe, ok? I worry.

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  • Kelly Naylor

    Dang, that quiz pegged me as mostly conservative. And I don’t think I’ve ever been conservative… except if you count being suspicious of MDs always wanting to push drugs on me to “fix” my problems instead of figuring out why I was having the problems in the first place. But I digress.

    I figure out who to vote for the same way. In the last election when we were deciding who our Congresscritter was going to be, I knew the guy running against Tonko. This is a guy I like, despite his rather conservative bent. On the other hand, I think Tonko’s not so bad. I know it’s all campaigny stuff, but he comes out to the Pride festival and chats people up. I asked him a couple of questions and didn’t feel like I was on the receiving end of bullet points, that he was talking to me like a real person. So… wow. Hard to decide. So I looked up where they both stood on issues that are most important to ME. Turns out that Tonko’s got my back. The other guy? Well, he’s ok as a friend, but I don’t want him speaking for me.

    I think a lot of it — whether you grow up liberal or conservative — is environment rather than biological. Who are you hanging out with? What do THEY believe. But also, it’s about being about to think for yourself, and not just accepting what Mom and Dad, or your friends, or the parish priest, or freakin’ anybody is telling you. Sure, listen to what they have to say. Then think. (I like to think. Some people say I think too much, like that’s an insult or something. Ha! Yes… yes, I do think “too much.” Thank you. I’ll just keep right on doing it, too.)

    I grew up in Chicago, where there are no Republicans. (That’s actually not true; it’s a myth the rest of Illinois wants people to believe, and Chicagoans are all about not mythbusting. Yes, we all have tommy guns! Why do you ask?) But looking back, I’d have to say a lot of the people my parents hung with were pretty conservative. In a lot of ways my dad was very conservative, and in others he was a flaming liberal. (“If anybody ever says black folks aren’t as good as white folks, you have my permission to punch them in the face.” Yeah, direct quote from dad. Of course, we weren’t allowed to fight for another other reason.) My mother, as far as I can remember, didn’t have an opinion of her own about anything. Kinda sad, that.

    Yeah, I tell people I’m genetically predisposed to being a Democrat because I’m an Irish gal from Chicago. But really? It’s because most of the time, the Democrats are the ones who are on the same side of the issues as I am. Just have candidates rate themselves on various issues and put their rankings on the ballot instead of their name and party affiliation. Oooh, and no campaign ads! I don’t want to hear about what the other guy is doing wrong. I want you to write a 1,000 word essay on WHY you don’t think women are capable of making their own decisions (I’m not going to read it, though, because I’ll probably just vomit) and another 1,000 word essay on HOW you plan to balance the budget. In fact, you have to write a 1,000 word essay on every issue. No, no… YOU have to write them, not your campaign manager. And I will be grading on spelling, grammar and punctuation in addition to content.

    Heh heh heh That would be an awful lot of fun, wouldn’t it?

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I’m with you on the attack ads. HATE. Also, no more flyers in my mailbox. I get on major flyer overload around election time. Such a waste of paper! Gah.

      So many people don’t think that it’s scary. Also, so many people don’t VOTE that it’s scary. I don’t get that on a lot of levels. A., it’s so much FUN! Why wouldn’t you? and B., you’re choosing the person who makes decisions that affect you, why wouldn’t you want to have a hand in that? Laziness, I suppose. But it bugs me.

      Like

      • Kelly Naylor

        OMG, the flyers! I don’t even look at them — they go right into the recycling bin. And I’m with you on the Fun Factor in voting! Over here in my neighborhood, they like to mess with us, though. They’ve moved the voting location three times since I’ve moved into this house.

        And as a fun fact, I will still on the “eligible voters” list in my parents’ precinct for about 15 years after I moved out of their house. Yep. That’s Chicago for you. Vote early, vote often isn’t just a slogan… you could really manage it back in the day. I believe they took me out of the “big book” when they realized I’d moved to Colorado. Heh.

        Like

  • ProfMomEsq

    I don’t whether to be alarmed or think Mooney’s test is jackassery, but I scored 3/5 for conservative?!?!? It has to be a broken, ineffective assessment device, no? Gay marriage – yes. Women’s reproductive rights – yes. Improve education – yes. Fix health care – yes. I’m … I’m … so *confused*. I need that dude in the picture to bring me some tulips. Can you make that happen, please?

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      You can do better than that dude, he would smell like patchouli and feet and steal all your money.

      I don’t know about that test. Because the last question, the one that’s the most telling – I could go either way on it. I like new things, but also sometimes, I like rules and order. So I’m torn. But I’m definitely a liberal, no question about that.

      Like

      • ProfMomEsq

        Oooohh. I had a hard time with that question, too, because sometimes I like rules and order a lot. They’re, like, my job and stuff.

        I’m positive that patchouli and feet just described the worst smell that could ever enter my nostrils, even is he carrying the tulips. Thank you for smacking back to my senses. Nicely played. Nicely played.

        Like

  • Jericha

    I also think that part of the problem with the test is that there are different ways of characterizing what “conservative” and “liberal” mean these days. “Conservative” is not necessarily synonymous with “Republican” and even “liberal” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “Democrat.” A lot of Republicans are for Big Government when it suits them (social issues like women’s rights and gay marriage, for example) and Small Government at other times (welfare, corporate regulation). I’m sure there are Democrats who are equally unclear. And I know a lot of older folks who are fiscally conservatives but socially liberals, with views like don’t raise my taxes but do give gay people rights, geez.

    I DO think that openmindedness plays the largest factor in where you stand in the kind of basic definition of conservative, because the whole idea of BEING conservative – as a person, I mean, not just in your political views – is that you’re, well, resistant to change. Change is scary. Of course fear-mongering works better with people who are less open-minded, and of course people who are less open-minded are more resistant to change – because YIKES! CHANGE! Likewise, people who are open-minded, whether naturally or by upbringing (and I do think both are possible, although it’s more likely to be a combination) are going to be less fearful of change, and therefore more liberal in their viewpoints.

    I DO think it is far more likely that a child of conservative parents ends up being a liberal than vice versa. I have exactly zero data to back that up, but it seems to make sense. Maybe because you get more resistant to change as you get older & set in your ways, and your brain is just more flexible when you’re a wee ‘un? (that is, a HIGHLY IMPRESSIONABLE YOUTH SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE EVIL SEDUCTION OF THE HIPPIE WAY OF LIFE ZOMG, of course.)

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    • lucysfootball

      You’re absolutely right – it was a pretty black and white test. There were a lot of things missing here. But it was interesting, overall. I like the thoughts it brought up.

      I’m actually not a fan of change. It scares the crap out of me. But I do scary changey things all the time, even though they scare me. So I guess, according to the test, I’m a liberal, even though it’s painful for me? :)

      Oh, the hippie lifestyle is way seductive, it’s true. I wear flowers in my hair and bellbottoms ALL THE TIME NOW. I’m on the dark side now, for sure.

      Like

  • kitchenmudge

    I suspect that none of you really want to spend any more time delving into this neurological “liberal-conservative” stuff, but just in case anyone does, there’s my own post about it from a while back:
    http://kitchenmudge.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/getting-inside-their-heads/
    with lotsa nifty, extremely bogus, brain diagrams & such. Mildly entertaining, maybe.

    Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    Hah! This post reminds of that Woody Allen film where a liberal family to their horror discovered that their son was a republican. They tried reasoning with him but to no avail; he stayed a stout conservative. Then, at the very end of the film (SPOILER ALERT!), the son collapsed and was brought to hospital where the doctors found a big tumour in his brain. After having had it surgically removed, he woke up a democrat!

    Now what was that film called? It had Alan Alda in it. Ah! ‘Everyone Says I Love You’.

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Hee! Don’t tell my dad, he’ll probably be all, “I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH AMY!” and schedule me for brain surgery to take out my brain tumor of liberalism!

      Like

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