In which our intrepid hero has his suspicions confirmed.

I just stumbled across this article at Yahoo, which cites a study into the behaviour of partisan voters in the US, conducted just prior to the 2004 election:

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. […]

[W]ith their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.

The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning.

Yup, sounds about right. I wonder just how many people who I’ve met over the past decade that these findings would explain. Probably too many to count.

On the other hand, it makes the rare, relatively open-minded friends that I’ve made in politics that much more valuable.