A USC-led study aims to explain the neurological reasons behind the growing national political divide.Conducted by the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC and Project Reason, the study shows how different parts of the brain are activated when an individual is presented a challenge to strongly held political beliefs.The study gathered 40 self-professed “strong liberals” who were then asked eight political and non-political questions. While political statements came from a small pool of questions, non-political statements were tailored to each person. “We started with a series of beliefs that people had previously told us they believed really strongly, so we gave them a scale from one to seven and asked them how strongly they believed these things,” said Jonas Kaplan, lead author of the study and an assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “All of these beliefs we showed them while inside the brain scanner were beliefs they had rated six or seven, so they were rated pretty strongly. Then after we [presented] the arguments to them, we asked them again how strongly they believed this.”According to Kaplan, a change in belief was recorded if an individual modified their response from a higher to a lower ranking on the scale after the counterargument was presented.This occurred while the participant was in a brain scanner, allowing the study to determine which parts of the brain were activated. Researchers found that the amygdala, insular cortex and default mode network were all triggered more when contrary thinking was presented against political questions than non-political ones. The researchers found that these regions were also activated in people less likely to change their minds.“The insular cortex is a part of the brain that processes feelings from the body,” said Sarah Gimbel, a co-author of the study and a senior research assistant at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute. “We know from other research that it’s important for emotion and emotional salience — like how emotionally important something is to you. The fact that we saw increased activation in this region … shows us when we feel threatened or anxious or emotional that we’re less likely to change our minds about these strongly held beliefs.”While the amygdala and the default mode network act as separate mechanisms in the brain, they share similar functions. When challenged, an individual becomes emotional and threatened, which Gimbel said reveals something deeper about politics and personal identity. “Activity when the political beliefs are challenged compared to when the non-political beliefs are challenged shows us that these areas of the brain have been linked to thinking about who we are,” Gimbel said. “It’s showing that these strongly held political beliefs have become a part of our sense of self and our sense of identity.”The study may also have implications for similar kinds of thinking as well. Kaplan believes that the results are not confined to politics, but rather he uses politics as an example of a more general group of ideas that people resist changing their minds about.“We used politics as a test case because we thought it would be difficult to change people’s minds about political things, and we were testing what happens when we resist changing our minds,” Kaplan said. “We don’t think this process is specific to politics. We think it’s probably more general to everything we think is important to us — so politics, religious beliefs and maybe beliefs about the USC football team if you’re a sports fan.”
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error SAN FRANCISCO >> Dee Gordon’s speed has allowed him to steal 46 bases, make his first All-Star team, and get penciled into the top of the Dodgers’ batting order practically every day this season.Against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, Gordon’s speed sparked the Dodgers to victory. Taking his lead from third base in the fifth inning, Gordon felt like he was far enough down the line to score when a third-strike pitch bounced away from Giants catcher Buster Posey. He was right. On offense, the Dodgers were sparked by a different player in each game of the series. Friday, it was Yasiel Puig and his franchise record-tying three triples. Saturday, Juan Uribe went 2 for 4 with two RBIs against his former team.Sunday, it was Gordon.The Dodgers’ second baseman reached base three times without a hit or a walk. He reached on a fielding error to lead off the game, and was hit by a pitch in the third inning, but didn’t score either time.In the fifth inning, Gordon struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt by newly acquired Giants starter Jake Peavy (0-1). The pitch got by Posey, allowing Gordon to reach first base.Puig then walked and Peavy wild-pitched both runners up a base. When Gonzalez struck out swinging on another wild pitch in the dirt, Gordon scored the game-tying run. Gonzalez said he “absolutely” thought Gordon would score from third base.“That’s why I ran,” Gonzalez said. “I always think about it when I’m on third base but I don’t have the speed. I’m glad he took the chance. It was a great read.”Ryu, for his part, didn’t expect Gordon to score. He was glad he was wrong.“It changed the energy of the team,” Ryu said through an interpreter.“Dee does things that nobody thinks about doing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.The inning wasn’t over. Ramirez singled, scoring Puig with the go-ahead run. Carl Crawford tripled to right field, and Ramirez scored all the way from first with a slide under the tag from Posey.There are reasons to believe the Dodgers can maintain whatever momentum they gained during their 5-4 road trip. Mattingly is using the off-day today to skip struggling starter Dan Haren’s next turn through the rotation. Josh Beckett will take the ball Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. Then the rotation will turn over again, with Greinke and Kershaw closing out the series.Meanwhile, the lineup seems to have stabilized with Puig in center field and Kemp in right. The team is healthy and the roles are more clearly defined than in weeks past. Andre Ethier, with a .248 average and four home runs, and left-handed killer Scott Van Slyke are the fourth and fifth outfielders — a point Mattingly all but conceded prior to the game.After some hiccups in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, the Dodgers have the best record in the National League.“You know it’s a chance to build momentum,” Mattingly said of the sweep. “It’s a confidence-builder for your club to come into a tough environment and play well, get some runs.” Posey threw out Adrian Gonzalez at first base as Gordon sprinted home and beat the throw, tying the game 2-2. The Dodgers scored twice more in the inning and the rally held up for a 4-3 win over the Giants at AT&T Park.“As soon as he snapped his head,” Gordon said of Posey, “I just made the choice to go and I was safe.”After sweeping the three-game series, the Dodgers lead the National League West by a game and a half; they entered the series trailing the Giants by a game and a half. Their other reward: A day off today followed by eight games at home.The sweep was as close to a total team effort as the Dodgers have received in weeks. Matt Kemp went 2 for 3 Sunday and 6 for 11 in the series. After taking four days off to nurse a sore left hand, Hanley Ramirez went 6 for 13 in the series. The Dodgers’ starting pitchers didn’t allow a run until the third inning Sunday.Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5) wasn’t as dominant as Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw. He allowed three runs in six innings, and that was good enough. J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the win. Jansen’s save was his 30th of the season.