By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Once more, over the cliff! Our lawmakers have had to make, or not make, some risky decisions lately. The "sequester," a poison pill of across-the-board cuts designed to force a spending compromise, has just done what no one believed it would do when it was created in 2011: It's gone into effect. That is widely expected to result in hundreds of thousands of layoffs, imperil effectiveness across federal programs, and potentially nudge our struggling economy back into recession. It's a reason to be wary of artificial deadlines, and just the latest example of Democrats and Republicans appearing to be not just different parties, but different species unable to meaningfully communicate with each other. The two parties may share the same language, but they seem to have very different brains. And a recent study appears to actually show that: There are differences in the ways the reds and the blues use their gray matter, especially when making decisions associated with risk.
A team of British and American researchers in politics and psychology recently published a study (Schreiber et al., 2013) showing that Democrats and Republicans use different parts of their brain when making risky decisions. Measuring activity in several regions of the brain as participants engaged in a gambling game, the research team was able to identify party affiliation as Democrat or Republican with a surprising 82.9 percent accuracy. For litigators, this result might confirm the intuition that we should be communicating differently with liberal and conservative judges and jurors. In this post, I take a look at this study and add some ideas and examples of how these acquired differences in thinking style could influence your trial message depending on whether you are talking to red brains or blue brains.