Hemispheric Asymmetries and Political Positions

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard brain scientist writes of her stroke that she had when she was 37 years of age.  Her stroke resulted from a brain hemorrhage that damaged the left side of her brain.  She’s a neuroanatomist by training.  Prior to describing her stroke and recovery she provides a chapter on brain “hemispheric asymmetries”.

Just as a cautionary note, we all use both sides of our brains.  The right and left hemisheres should be thought of as complimentary halves of a whole and not as seperate brains.  They do have differing specializations, however.

The right side of the brain allows us to:  remember isolated moments with uncanny clarity; recognize faces; the present moment is the only time period that is recognized; there is no defined rules about the correct way of doing things; intuition and empathy are processed on the right side of the brain. From the book: “The present moment is a time when everything and everyone are connected together as one.  As a result, our right mind perceives each of us as equal members of the human family” (p. 30).

Our left hemisphere  is organized around language Language is understood and produced in the left hemisphere. The left side of our brain thrives on facts and details.  There is a constant flow of brain chatter that comes from the left mind.  The left side defines our sense of self.  Time is organized and sequential.  Academic skills are processed on the left side our brains.

After reading the book, and I highly recommend it, I had thoughts that perhaps conservatives have some degree of right hemispheric dysfunction.  Not having empathy, not seeing interinconnections amongst us all, etc. would be clues to this possiblity.

What do you bloggers think of this latter “insight”?  Is it delusion or possibility?

iggy donnelly


Filed under Book Reviews, Creativity, Diversity, Political Reform, Populists, Republicans, Thinking/Considering

12 responses to “Hemispheric Asymmetries and Political Positions

  1. Though she is not a religion expert, Dr. Taylor speculates that zen Buddhism strives to shut down the left hemisphere to enjoy the chatter-free comfort of right hemispheric processing. That seemed possible to me…

  2. G-stir

    Between the left and right hemisperes is the Twlight Zone, where it is theorized that “Bushspeak” may have orginated.

  3. I’ve met two kinds of people who call themselves Conservatives:

    1. Mean, spiteful, greedy, selfish people;

    2. Those who genuinely believe the word describes a philosophy that respects traditional, tried-and-true values, plus a tendency to conserve and not be wasteful with resources.

    The second kind are rarely very engaged in politics. They trust and don’t pay attention.

  4. Good one G-stir.

    fnord, Did you see wordpress generated one of your old public square posts? – the illustration on that old post very aptly describes the hemispheric specializations.

  5. tosmarttobegop

    Boy to speculate on the mental status of most of those who claim to be conservatives?
    A mental illness is not something that you can contract through contact but there is the mass hysteria theory.
    Many seeing something they do not associate or understand grasping for a logical or reasonable explanation of it. Will fall in line with a somewhat explanation no matter how illogical it may be.

    Here is an example of how it sometimes works, there was an inmate who’s sanity was in real question.
    He was seemed totally unstable even dangerous. One night my trustee who had done time with the other inmate in Prison told me it was all an act. Later the trustee came to me and said it was no longer an act.
    That if you act crazy long enough you will become crazy.

    The same might be the case with most Conservatives, at first it is nothing more then an act.
    Playing the role that they are accused of, having the stance they are blamed for. But as time progressed they actually start believing it. I.E. those without insurance do not want to have insurance and it becomes the reality they see for all that do not have insurance. Those who receive public assistance are lazy and do not want to work. So that everyone who receives public assistance are the same.

    Are there those who truly do not want insurance and those who do not want to work? Yes to both but it is not the total of everyone does not have insurance or are not working for those reasons.

    I admit it, I am hard pressed to explain or excuse a lot of what Conservatives say.
    They truly do seem to be mentally ill and quite delusional.

  6. I don’t know about conservatives being mentally ill, they just have some operating hypotheses about the world that I do not share. I think there is ample evidence that they are wrong on these fundamental hypotheses, but I don’t expect them to see the light and change – that is something they don’t do very often. And I am okay with that. Their strategy is a real and basic losing strategy.

  7. wicked

    Hmmmm, and all along I’ve thought I was more right-brained than left.

    “There is a constant flow of brain chatter that comes from the left mind. ”

    That would be me. I’ve often wondered if other people constantly have thoughts running through their head. Sleep seems to be the only respite, but dreams carry it on, so…

    So am I the only one who has conversations with self? I don’t just talk TO myself, I talk WITH myself. Conscious thoughts. Real conversations.

    “Why don’t you try this?”
    “It won’t work.”
    “You won’t know until you try it.”
    “Oh, all right, if you think it might work.”

    And we won’t even go into those conversations between characters.

    Because sometimes it doesn’t stay in my mind, but spews forth from my my mouth, my kids constantly ask who I’m talking to. My answer is, “Myself. I’m the only one who’s intelligent enough to understand what I’m saying.”

  8. “So am I the only one who has conversations with self? I don’t just talk TO myself, I talk WITH myself. Conscious thoughts. Real conversations.”

    No, to your question. Perfectly normal, too.

  9. wicked

    LOL, Iggy.

    I began seeing a counselor during the runup to my divorce. Actually I agreed to do it to get the ex to see one. He was battling some bad depression. Brought on by himself, not me, patient person that I am. (ha ha)

    Anyway, one of the ways I handled frustration and anger was to mentally whack him with a baseball bat. I envisioned the swing, then the smack of the bat hitting his head. Repeatedly. Something like hitting a watermelon. (Too much Gallagher?) I told my counselor about it and asked if it was…well, bad to do that. He told me no, that whatever worked to ease the frustration was fine, as long as I didn’t actually go through with it.

    I guess we’re all a little crazy, some just more so than others. 🙂

  10. Thanks, wicked. I need to include you on some emails I have sent out to others. Thanks, again.