Introduction

In this article, the author views the recent election as having been an auction. Like traditional auctions we have the “buyers” and the “products” that were offered. There the comparison ends. What all of us were attempting to “buy” was a person who would implement our hopes, aspirations and dreams, protect us from the people and events we fear, and punish those who have angered us. We sought to buy, in effect, the picture we hold of how we believe we would act, were we to hold the position of the individual we chose to represent us. Putting it another way, each of us sought to buy a “clone,” of what we conceived to be our own brains. While we are (perhaps) aware that the brain we buy was going to be far different from our own, we sought the closest approximation of that brain between those offered “for sale.” This article introduces the reader to the factors that served to influence the brains of the voters, with an analysis of the brains of the candidates, and some reflections regarding the likelihood that Obama will indeed behave as anticipated by the electorate.

The Brain of the Buyer
Almost everyone reading this has, at one time or another, made a purchase or a sale on eBay. In most cases, you were satisfied with the transaction, but if you are a frequent buyer, inevitably, the chances are that at one time or another you have been stung with a buy which failed to deliver as promised. You found that the product was defective, failed to perform as promised, turned out to be overpriced, or worst case, was never delivered. As a buyer of products, regardless of where you purchased them, your satisfaction with them has most likely been directly proportional to the quality of vetting you did, prior to the transaction. Yet, we as a nation seldom end up completely satisfied with a class of products we buy every two, four or six years. These products are roughly 15 centimeters or 5.9 inches in length, and weigh just a bit over three pounds (1400 grams). One was offered by the Democratic National Committee, with the remaining one offered by the competing “seller.” We are, of course, talking about the brains of Obama and McCain. For this “buyer,” it was, in fact, what was inferred about these brains, which governed his “purchase decision,” made on the first Tuesday in November, 2008. Inference is the essential word here, because, unfortunately although the technology exists for some rather precise examination of these respective products, their sellers refuse to provide the access to this information. Each of the candidates has supplied some information about his or her medical history, but we are yet to have access to any information about the health or construction of their brains. Yet, that organ is the place from which all decisions and commands will originate. Since we did not have access to medical information, we had but one place to turn to make our inferences – the behavioral history of the candidate. There was

ample data to make that assessment coming from all the speeches, press and blog coverage, video, and for some, up-close personal observations of the candidates.

Predicting Voter Behavior
Before considering the specifics of likely candidate behavior, we must look to the construction and performance of our own brains to better appraise the brain we finally “purchased.” Brains of “Deciders” Almost all voters land somewhere in a continuum that has come to be labeled, “Liberal – Conservative.” While neither implies “Good,” or “Bad,” a recent study suggests that there is a significant difference in the brains of those self identified as belonging to one or the other of these groups. (Recently posted as a Quick Link on OEN). In a more detailed fashion, researchers have provided an in-depth portrait of the archetypical conservative. The author builds a context by which the Conservative personality may be understood. This framework consists of five essential elements • Fear and aggression • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity • Uncertainty avoidance • Need for cognitive closure – Solve it Now! • Terror management “What we see in this personality is a predisposition to display fear and aggression when confronted with complex problems, and uncertainty about optimum solutions. The need to reject opposing views is always in the forefront. “The terror management feature of conservatism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views, they wrote. “Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).” There was another interesting element of this same behavior – it would appear to equally manifest itself in the far Left of the political spectrum. What, after all, was the difference between the Conservative call to take draconian measures against illegal immigrants, and the Left’s demand for immediate withdrawal of all military in Iraq?

An inspection of the operation of he Hillary Clinton campaign raises a spectrum of strategies which are illustrative of the same behaviors displayed four years ago employed by the Republicans supporters who “swift-boated” John Kerry. Moreover, the solutions she advocates for complicated issues seems much more the simplistic approach of McCain, than the rich complexity and thought reflected in Obama’s response to the same problems. This author would offer the view that, rather than responding to specific politically defined content, we attend more closely to how an individual responds to intellectual challenge, as we attempt to classify who they are, and predict how they will respond to future issues. Thus, for the remainder of this paper, you may find it useful to disconnect the labels “Liberal,” and “Conservative,” and instead, use “Rational-brained ,” and “Emotional-brained,” instead, as descriptors for two diverging cognitive styles of processing and using information. The Dominance of Emotional vs. Rational Decision Making Much as we hold out for ourselves the image of being rational, reasoning people, the evidence would suggest the reverse. According to a 2006 study, Reported in USA, Today: “The evidence has been piling up throughout history, and now neuroscientists have proved it's true: The brain's wiring emphatically relies on emotion over intellect in decisionmaking.” In a long and thoughtful article titled, Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion, the author suggests: “Our brains, like other animal brains, are constantly trying to fine tune and speed up the central decision of all action: approach or avoid. You can't understand the river of fMRI studies on neuroeconomics and decision making without embracing this principle. We have affectively-valenced intuitive reactions to almost everything, particularly to morally relevant stimuli such as gossip or the evening news. Reasoning by its very nature is slow, playing out in seconds. “Studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which is made in milliseconds. But I do agree with Josh Greene that sometimes we can use controlled processes such as reasoning to override our initial intuitions.” Morality and Political Decision-Making For many, their views of morality, translated into the term “Values,” strongly affected their predisposition to select one candidate over another. Not only did many premise their electoral choice on the degree to which the candidate’s

promised policies were congruent with their own perceptions of good and evil, but their perception of the candidates was possibly strongly affected by symbolic signals to which response is almost totally emotional. Attacks on Obama included his choice for not wearing a lapel flag, his middle name being the same as that of a hated terrorist, and his association with an unpopular religious figure, a former member of a radical organization, and others with unsavory backgrounds. Conversely, McCain’s POW experience during the Vietnam War was among the strongest elements of his asserted “experience,” in the area of military strategy and foreign policy. With few facts presented to link this experience with requisite knowledge, the (presumed) courage and sacrifice required, were assumed to bestow him a deep understanding of current issues. That such values are emotionally driven, irrational, and originate with complex brain interactions, is firmly rejected by many, even in the face of a host of recent studies which serve to demonstrate the involvement of neurobiology in what are ordinarily perceived as behavioral prescriptions and proscriptions far removed from the domain of science. Instead these values are explained as having originated in religious teachings, supported by many years of reinforcement by revered cultural leaders. Personal and Impersonal Morality Consider this well known pair of scenarios in which the problem is exactly the same, but the context in which it occurs will produce vastly different reactions from those facing this dilemma: Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they don't work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right. You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately, there is one track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him. Is it morally permissible for you to turn the trolley? In this hypothetical case, about ninety five percent of people agree that it is morally permissible to turn the trolley. Some moral philosophers even argue that it is immoral to not turn the trolley, since such a decision leads to the death of four extra people. But what about this scenario: You are standing on a footbridge over the trolley track. You can see a trolley hurtling down the track; it's out of control. You turn around to see where the trolley was headed, and

there are five workmen on the track...What to do? Being an expert on trolleys, you know of one certain way to stop an out-of-control trolley: Drop a really heavy weight in its path. But where to find one? It just so happens that standing next to you on the footbridge is a fat man, a really fat man. He is leaning over the railing, watching the trolley; all you have to do is to give him a little shove, and over the railing he will go, onto the track in the path of the trolley. Would it be permissible for you to do this? The brute facts, of course, remain the same: one man must die in order for five men to live. If our ethical decisions were perfectly rational, then we would act identically in both situations, and would be as willing to push the fat man as we are to turn the trolley. (Kant wouldn't have seen any difference.) And yet, almost nobody was willing to actively throw another person onto the train tracks. The decisions lead to the same outcome, and yet one was moral and one was murder. The author goes on to tell us that not only do the two situations result in different reactions on the part of those to whom it was described, but quite different areas of the brain are activated while processing the solutions: To help in understanding this profound difference in activation of areas of the brain associated with Moral-Personal, Moral-Impersonal, and Non-Moral decisions, this study by Joshua Greene was cited.

PTSD and Personal Morality Conflicts Of growing concern is the frequency of occurrence Iraq war veterans suffering the symptoms PTSD as they return from deployment from the war zone. Looking at the large differences illustrated in the figure above, consider these findings regarding the prevalence of PTSD among patients suffering brain injury. “…the researchers found two regions where damage is rarely associated with PTSD: the amygdala, a structure important in fear and anxiety, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), an area involved in higher mental functions and planning. “In another level of analysis, the researchers compared the prevalence of PTSD in subjects who had damage to either the amygdala or vmPFC, subjects who had damage to other parts of the brain and non-head-injured subjects. PTSD occurred in a similar fraction of subjects in the last two groups -- 40 percent and 48 percent, respectively. In contrast, PTSD occurred in only 18 percent of subjects with damage to the vmPFC and zero (out of 50) subjects with damage to the amygdala. The occurrence of other anxiety disorders was not affected by damage to the amygdala or vmPFC. "It appears that if you have damage to either of those areas, you're not likely to develop PTSD…” And Then, There is the Brain of the Sociopath Before considering the impact of this relatively small but disproportionately influential group of individuals, look first at the cluster of characteristics which describe them: • • • • • • • • • Engage in, and in fact seek, high personal (economic or physical) risk taking as a critical element of lifestyle are callous, cold and calculating are devious, clever and cunning are ruthless in the extreme display zero empathy have no emotions, no emotional processing capability and no ability to understand other's emotions are totally lacking in anxiety resistant to pain, and dismissive of physical discomfort completely without conscience, remorse and guilt

• • •

are likely to be leaking confidential information or secrets to third parties show no limits on their vindictiveness construct believable and credible lies, often undetectable

Look like the description of some, or most of those in political leadership positions? Rather than seeking to identify who among our political leaders displays these characteristics, a more challenging exercise is to identify those who clearly were or are not! Historically, the author can list some who came to office, but often were defeated in bids for reelection, or failed in efforts to achieve goals, beneficial to those they represent. ► Harry Truman, although narrowly successful in his bid for reelection, was never thought of as a “professional” politician. ► While clumsy, and often derided for his lack of political skill, the personal investment of Jimmy Carter in efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, and his work for improvement of those throughout the world suffering from poverty and sickness, certainly removes him from the definition of the sociopath. ► Held in the highest regard for his integrity, concern for others, and just being an all-around nice guy, Gerald Ford is fondly remembered by all whose lives he touched. With increasing progress in brain imaging, it is possible to determine with great accuracy whether an individual is in fact a sociopath. The disorders and injuries to the amygdala, and the vmPFC can, with increasing reliability, discriminate between the brain of the sociopath and the normal. Strangely, as voters, while we ask for background biographic information, put great emphasis on the people with whom candidates have associated, as well as their tax returns, we never inquire about the condition of their brains. Do we not wish to know whether we might be electing a sociopath as our next President? How did they get that way? If we accept the proposition that among the critical variables discriminating between the brain of the Liberal and the Conservative, is the tolerance for ambiguity, we may perhaps usefully speculate about the process which differentiates these brains. While the Liberal brain thrives on complexity, the conservative brain seeks what might be called reductionist simplicity. Protracted thinking is hard work. How many times have you heard from others, or said yourself, “It gives me a headache just thinking about it?” As fatigue sets in, we fall back to reliance on emotional impulse to solve intractable problems. If we think of liberals as tending to demonstrate greater intellectual perseverance, we can speak of self control as being a muscle.

This isn't the first time people have explored the impact of mental exertion on self-control. Stanford professor Baba Shiv invented an experiment where he manipulated the "cognitive load" of subjects. Shiv gave half of the subjects a two-digit number to memorize (low load), while the other half were given a seven-digit number (high load). Subjects were then instructed to walk to another room in the building. On the way they passed by a table at which they were presented with a choice between a caloric slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad. Fifty-nine percent of the people trying to remember seven digits (high load) chose the cake, while sixty-three percent of the two-digit subjects (low load) chose the fruit salad. In other words, having people memorize an extra five digits made them exhibit significantly less self-control. Given differential behavior resulting from this “Cognitive Load,” is it a great stretch to posit political affiliation resulting, at least, in part, from characteristics inherited from one’s parents? In a new study, Genetic Variation in Political Participation, there is this suggestion regarding the heritability of political attitudes: “For example, the large literature on the role of parents in voter turnout nearly always suggests that the link between parent and child is the result of the transmission of norms rather than the transmission of genes (Plutzer 2004). As a result, our best work on the subject frequently leaves the impression that political participation is determined exclusively by environmental factors. “Recently, social scientists have learned that variation in basic political attitudes like liberalism and conservatism can be attributed to both genes and environment (Martin, et al. 1986; Alford, Funk, and Hibbing 2005; Eaves and Hatemi 2008; Hannagan and Hatemi 2008), even as early as adolescence (Abrahamson, Baker, & Caspi, 2002).” This study is directed not so much at political association as propensity to engage in voting activity. What is of interest is the methodology employed, suggesting extension to the question of political affiliation in future research. “In order to estimate the heritability of voting behavior, we study the turnout patterns of (identical) monozygotic (MZ) twins who were conceived from a single fertilized egg and (non-identical) dizygotic (DZ) twins who were conceived from two separate eggs. MZ twins share 100% of their genes, while DZ twins share only 50% on average. Thus, if voting behavior is heritable, MZ twins should exhibit more concordance (both twins vote or both twins abstain) than DZ

twins. Moreover, if we assume that MZ twins and DZ twins share comparable environments (more on this assumption below), then we can use these concordances to estimate explicitly the proportion of the overall variance attributed to genetic, shared environmental, and unshared environmental factors.” The Ultimate Dilemma Each of these issues resolves into this single generalization: Every decision taken by a political leader benefits some, at the expense of others. In short, every decision has Winners and Losers. Whether the Iraq War, NAFTA, or the price of gas, there is a large group of individuals who have benefited immensely from the decision to implement each of these events. However large this group, it pales beside the cost, human and economic suffered by a much larger segment of this country than compose the winners. The difference for winners and losers is huge, and can have no rational justification. As we look back at the Bush/Cheney Administration over the last eight years, few, regardless of personal political orientation, will find much in the behavior of either of these men that was admirable, desirable or even acceptable. Yet, from this behavior we find diagnostic clues that can be applied to future candidates so that we can be forewarned about the potential for similar future performance.