More Physiological Determinants of the Vote

I'd meant to post this piece a while ago. Olivia Judson in the NYT:Judson

Here’s something I’ve found myself speculating about recently: could the obesity epidemic have a political impact? In particular, could obesity in a pregnant woman influence the eventual political outlook of her child? I came to this question after mulling over a number of facts.

First, according to a report published last month in the journal Science, strong political views are correlated with distinct physiological responses to startling noises and threatening images. Specifically, the study found that people who support warrantless searches, wiretapping, military spending and so on were also likely to startle at sudden noises and threatening images. Those who support foreign aid, immigration, gun control and the like tended to have much milder responses to the stimuli. (The study only included people who described themselves as having strong political opinions; the physiology of apathy has not been looked at.)

Second, in other animals, the way an individual responds to threat is part of its personality. If you put a bird like a great tit into a room it’s never seen before, some individuals will be quick to start exploring; others will be slow.