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Lockdowns and Brains

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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Representative Dan Crenshaw started his commentary about lockdowns but quickly focused on how our brains process risk. He wanted to help us understand why Americans see the pandemic and the lockdowns very differently.

He cites research that discovered that “Democrats and Republicans differ in the neural mechanism activated during risk-taking exercises, specifically in the amygdala region. This demonstrates measurable physiological differences when confronted with risk.” For example, “conservatives overwhelmingly fill the ranks of physically riskier jobs such as the military, law enforcement, and loggers.”

What does that mean in terms of the pandemic we have faced this last year? Conservatives are less risk averse to physical threats and less likely to favor more extreme actions to mitigate risk. Liberals, he argues, are more likely to believe that government can solve problems and are more willing to accept such measures.

He also quotes the research of Dr. Jonathan Haidt (who has been on my radio program to talk about his latest book). He found that liberals overemphasize “caring” and “fairness” above other moral considerations. Conservatives favor these moral categories but also value moral authority and tradition, liberty, and loyalty. This also explains why “liberals routinely denigrate contextualized COVD-19 data – such as accounting for age and co-morbidities when assessing fatalities” because they see this as “downplaying the virus.”

If we are to have a civil debate about responses to the pandemic, then we need to understand the differences between us and frame the discussion accordingly. Representative Crenshaw wisely reminds us that some of the differences we have about government policy are affected by how our brains process risk and emotions.viewpoints new web version

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