The left wing… the right wing… and your brain!

It is election week in La Belle Province and in Quebec as elsewhere, political parties take position on key issues such as health, education and social policies. As elsewhere in the world, they sit somewhere on the left wing – right wing continuum.

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Could it be that left-winger’s brains are wired differently than right-winger’s brains?

Could some areas in the brain be more active in left-wingers than right-wingers, and vice versa?

Let’s start by defining the left and the right wing.

Left wing politics stand for social equality, as opposed to social hierarchy. There is usually a concern for those that are disadvantaged and the assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be abolished.

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Right wing politics stand for the support of hierarchy. Right-wingers consider social inequality as inevitable. The notion that this hierarchy is a reflection of competition in market economies is present.

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To further understand brain traits behind these two ideologies, we can study two outstanding Canadians that have made their mark on the political and economical stage.

Jack Layton was a Canadian social democratic politician. He was the leader of the New Democratic Party from 2003-2011. He passed on August 22, 2011. His party stands for investing in job creation by developing a green economy, investing in fair transition programs where layoffs occur and ensuring that large profitable corporations pay a fair share of taxes. As a whole, the NDP, to this day, stands for social justice and Jack Layton, more than any other chief, brought awareness for these ideals in Canada.

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If we had picked Jack Layton’s brain, we could have potentially seen a very active right supra marginal gyrus. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience on October 9, 2013, Max Planck identified that the tendency to be egocentric is innate for human beings but that a part of the brain recognizes empathy and autocorrects. This specific part of the brain is called the right supra marginal gyrus. When this brain region doesn’t function properly, researchers found one’s ability for empathy is dramatically reduced. This gyrus is located towards the front of the brain.

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What’s interesting about the right parietal lobe, where the supra marginal gyrus resides, is that damage to it results in the loss of imagery as well as visualization of spatial relationships. How interesting that imagery and the ability to perceive your environment can be related to empathy. Could it be that when you identify your surroundings efficiently, you are drawn to help, to create change for the common good?

Another brain feature that was most likely quite active in Jack Layton’s case were mirror neurons. These neurons mirror the behavior of others. They are located in part in the premotor cortex. Many researchers in neuroscience and cognitive psychology argue that mirror neurons are important for understanding the actions of other people. Some have even argued that it is mirror neurons that are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.

 

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As a whole, the prefrontal cortex is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. Would it be fair to say then that, being empathetic is being civilized? To add to this, as a whole it is determined that the prefrontal cortex is for executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to determine good from bad, better and best, future consequences of current activities…

Many authors have indicated an integral link between a person’s personality and the functions of the prefrontal cortex!

 

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If Jack Layton embodied left wing politics with so much vigor and charisma, Kevin O’Leary might be the very best Canadian representative for the promotion of a right wing government.

Kevin O’Leary was born on July 9th, 1945. He is a Canadian businessman, investor, writer and television personality. He was one of the very popular dragons from the TV hit show Dragon’s Den.

 

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O’Leary’s mother provided him with a capital of 10 000$ to start a software company by the name of SoftKey. This was the first of many profitable business ventures by O’Leary. O’Leary manages O’Leary Funds (a mutual and investment firm that handles over 1.5 billion dollars).

O’Leary was recently interviewed on the most popular French TV show Tout le Monde en Parle. He was asked about the Quebec elections. O’Leary was born in Montreal and his answer was quite interesting. He said to vote for the party that creates jobs. His belief is that the government should let businesses evolve and that it should the ones that thrive do and the ones that don’t, don’t.

Here are his words:

“It’s fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.’ This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this? I celebrate capitalism. Don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that never gonna happen…”

O’Leary’s views tend to bring us back to the idea of living in a jungle. In a sense, one could say that we still are and that the attitude of wanting to climb the ladder is honorable. In essence, so many innovations that improve the quality of our lives were the end result of entrepreneurs pulling 15-hous days, for many years while taking risks most aren’t willing to take. According to O’Leary, these very few individuals that represent the 1% that is so talked about recently, need to be celebrated. He does believe in social programs, yet he believes the best social program is job creation.

O’Leary loves capitalism. For some, that makes him ruthless. For those who appreciate numbers, here is what he states capitalism has been accountable for in recent times:

“There is always going to be a statistically 1% that created companies, products and services that the world needed. Capitalism has been incredibly successful. Over the last 30 years, as capitalism has taken the Soviet Union, extreme world poverty has dropped from 43% to 17%. In 1900, 70% of the world population was illiterate. Nowadays, that figure is 17%.

As you can see, O’Leary works with facts. He is analytical and works with facts to make decisions. O’Leary believes that, if you have to, for your company’s sakes, if you have to fire your mother, you fire your mother… One could say that O’Leary is potentially left-brain dominant. Left-brain dominant individuals tend to be more logic, work off of facts and have a great capacity to analyze in terms of making decisions.

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So what’s best… the left wing… the right wing… Should the government’s focus be job creation, social programs? Can it be a mix of both? Maybe balance, as with the physical body, is the best option.

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One Response to “The left wing… the right wing… and your brain!”

  1. John B March 17, 2015 at 12:03 am #

    Enjoyed this article/post. Very Good analogies.