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NEUROPOLITICS – YOUR BRAIN IS BUILT FOR POLITICS

Abstract

Darren Schreiber's research centers on emergence and complexity in political systems. He studied Politics, Philosophy, and Economics as an undergraduate at Claremont McKenna College. After college he attended UC Davis School of Law, where he focused on civil rights litigation and had his first federal jury trial at age 23. He then specialized in federal litigation at the 100 year-old law firm of Neumiller and Beardslee. Unsatisfied with the intellectual life of a lawyer, Darren moved to academia. While earning his Ph.D. in Political Science at UCLA, Darren developed an agent-based computer simulation of the formation and dynamics of political parties. He has pioneered the subfield of neuropolitics with the first use of functional brain imaging (fMRI) to study the neural foundations of politics.

His first book, Your Brain is Built for Politics, synthesizes a decade of research and develops novel insights into political sophistication, partisanship, racism, and voting behavior using neuroscience tools such as functional imaging and neural network models. His long-term objective is to integrate his agent-based models of macro political dynamics with his computational model of political cognition in individuals in order to illuminate the emergence of political ideology in mass publics. Darren's previous appointments were at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary; University of California, San Diego; the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research at Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania; and the Solomon Asche Center for Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania.

The book argues that Your Brain is Built for Politics, drawing from an extensive body of research in biology and politics. Negotiating increasingly complex and shifting coalitions drove the human brain to evolve a set of mechanisms that modern humans now engage when they participate in national politics. The book synthesizes results from six brain imaging experiments, a large-n response latency study, and a computational model of the visual cortex to explore how these brain mechanisms underpin phenomena such as political sophistication, political attitudes, racial attitudes, and moral reasoning. Predictions of party affiliation with 82% accuracy, election results with 65–75% accuracy, and both egalitarian attitudes and behaviors are achieved with surprisingly simple models accounting for brain function. The product is a new view of human nature. Biology is shown to be subservient to the demands of human politics. Rather than a reductionist or deterministic argument, I contend the shifting coalitions of human society require that we are hardwired to not be hardwired.

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