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Neural bases of motivated reasoning: An fMRI study of emotional constraints on partisan political judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election Adelle.

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Presentation on theme: "Neural bases of motivated reasoning: An fMRI study of emotional constraints on partisan political judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election Adelle."— Presentation transcript:

1 Neural bases of motivated reasoning: An fMRI study of emotional constraints on partisan political judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election Adelle Dinkelman and Kevin Lee

2 Abstract Cold reasoning vs. Emotion-biased motivated reasoning Tested with neuroimaging 2004 US Presidential Election 30 committee partisans (15 Democrat and 15 Republicans)

3 Introduction Bounded rationality models (Simon, 1990) Motivated Reasoning (Westen & Blagov) Defense of aversive feelings (Freud, 1933) Evidence that political decisions can be influenced by emotions (Bill Clinton impeachment, 2000 Presidential Election, torture in Iraq) (Westen et al., 2005) Hypothesis Reasoning threatening information about supporting party will activate implicit emotion regulation regions in the brain (VMPFC, anterior cingulate cortex)

4 Method Participants 15 Democrats and 15 Republican Right-handed men, years, who were committed to their party Political attitudes questionnaire by National Election Studies Only the strong Democrat or Republicans were recruited (30+ in points for their party in the NES Questionnaire)

5 Methods Cont. Measures and Procedures 3 targets (Democrat, Republican, Neutral) 6 sets of statements for each party 7 slides per set of statements

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7 Methods Cont. Planned Comparisons 1.Same-party vs. neutral during contradiction phase to isolate parts of the brain that controlled implicit emotion regulation 2.Contradiction vs. exculpatory statements in same-party to see where the brain is engaged in emotion-biased motivated reasoning 3.Interaction

8 Results Democrats and Republicans drew different conclusions about contradictions by preferred candidates Bush: Democrat M = 3.79 Republican M = 2.16 Kerry: Democrat M = 2.60 Republican M = 3.55 Shows powerful effects of motivated reasoning Reasoned similarly about contradictions of neutral candidates

9 Areas activated when threatening information to preferred candidate was presented vs. neutral These areas have been shown to relate to emotional reasoning, moral evaluations, etc

10 Areas activated when threatening information compared to nonthreatening information (exculpatory phase) Areas related to emotional processing and negative affect

11 Areas more active when processing threatening versus exculpatory information related to their candidate compared to a neutral candidate (interaction) Consistent with predictions that same-party contradictions would activate negative processing affect regions

12 After participants had considered the contradiction, and then were asked to consider it again after receiving the exculpatory information, regions related to negative affect processing no longer active Regions for reward or reinforcement active (possible relief after resolving emotional conflict)

13 Discussion Consistent with prior studies in partisan biases and motivated reasoning Implicit emotion regulation areas in the brain are different from “cold” decision making and explicit emotion regulation areas Not associated with activation of DLPFC Supports theories of network of motivated reasoning

14 Limitations Study of the whole brain instead of specific areas Narrow demographics All men All right-handed Ages No mention of race (?) Only extreme democrats or republicans Can’t be certain when motivational reasoning started


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