So this paper, “Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans” has been making the rounds. I’ve been skeptical of the ‘political brain’ literature before–which, by the way, led me to defend conservatives. Just saying. My suspicion is that in five or ten years, quite few biologists and their publicists are going to look pretty foolish.
Here’s what bothers me about the paper: I have no idea what the relative magnitude of effects are. Translated into English, it’s not clear at all how large this effect is relative to other variables such as age, the scanner used, or gender (not to mention the performance on the test to mention risk). It’s a pretty straightforward and quick analysis, and the reviewers should have demanded this be presented before acceptance for publication. My hunch is, and it’s just a hunch, that when one performs this analysis, the ‘political effect’, while significant, is rather small.
Which is still interesting, but not nearly as sexy for public consumption.
Cited Article: Schreiber D, Fonzo G, Simmons AN, Dawes CT, Flagan T, et al. 2013 Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans. PLoS ONE 8(2): e52970. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052970