This is Your Brain on Politics | By Sydney Rudko

Like any proud Canadian I was glued to the US election results last night. Whether you swing right or left (or even both ways!), we’ve all been involved in a political debate at some point in our lives. The mature ones occur in person over a few bottles of wine, while some descend into the ranks of flame wars for all to see on Facebook. I was as hooked to a few of these on Facebook and Twitter last night as I was the HuffPo. The debates might start out okay, but usually descend to something like this:

And it was upon reading these flame wars that I was reminded of a cool video about how your brain stores facts. You know how some Americans think Obama was born outside the United States? Or how some people think vaccines cause autism, that global warming isn’t real? And now before you all start coming at me saying these questions reflect “opinions”, NO. Stop. No. Just no. These are facts. Just like it’s a fact that Edmonton is a city in Canada.

It turns out that when your brain stores what it deems facts, it processes them differently than it would a normal memory. It distances the fact from where you learned it, who you learned it from, or even if that source was credible or not. It tends to forget these “irrelevant” bits of information. If you don’t believe me, try it on yourself.

Take this fact:
Mexico is a predominantly Spanish-speaking country that lies south of the United States. 

or

Kim Kardashian is a rich celebrity who is constantly in the news due primarily to her big ass and her sex tape.

You know these are true, but can you recall when you learned these facts? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t remember the first time you heard about Mexico or where it was located. This is because you likely learned this information a long time ago and as your brain has further processed this fact it has discarded the irrelevant parts. The second statement is trickier. Maybe you DO remember the first time you heard about Kim K. because you’re a huge fan of her home movies. Perhaps you have only heard about her recently, and therefore it’s easier to recall when that was. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that memory disappears in a few years.

The fact that we forget where we learn facts is a problem when the facts aren’t true. We often forget the credibility of the source, and therefore might not even know we are wrong! Furthermore, we tend to readily accept facts (again, regardless of the source) if they agree with a prior view!

So I guess the moral of the story is that whether you supported that Socialist Kenyan Obama, or that Cousin-lovin’ Middle-Class proletariat Romney, just remember that your opponent, who is ALWAYS wrong, isn’t STUPID, they simply have a brain disorder.
But then again… so do you.

If you want to check out a great video that discusses forgetting, check out the Ups and Downs of Forgetting on Discovermagazine.com!

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  • Duke Ellington

    I wish Canadians would feel that same way they do about American politics than their own