Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism


Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: The relation between political orientation and a neurocognitive index of conflict monitoring.


  1. Jost, J.T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A.W. & Sulloway, F.J. Psychol. Bull. 129, 339–375 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alford, J.R., Funk, C.L. & Hibbing, J.R. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 99, 153–167 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Block, J. & Block, J.H. J. Res. Pers. 40, 734–749 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Miller, E.K. & Cohen, J.D. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 24, 167–202 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Botvinick, M.M., Braver, T.S., Barch, D.M., Carter, C.S. & Cohen, J.D. Psychol. Rev. 108, 624–652 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Kiehl, K.A., Liddle, P.F. & Hopfinger, J.B. Psychophysiology 37, 216–223 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Nieuwenhuis, S., Yeung, N., Van Den Wildenberg, W. & Ridderinkhof, K.R. Cogn. Affect. Behav. Neurosci. 3, 17–26 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Jost, J.T. Am. Psychol. 61, 651–670 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Gehring, W.J., Goss, B., Coles, M.G.H., Meyer, D.E. & Donchin, E. Psychol. Sci. 4, 385–390 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dehaene, S., Posner, M.I. & Tucker, D.M. Psychol. Sci. 5, 303–305 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Yeung, N., Botvinic, M.M. & Cohen, J.D. Psychol. Rev. 111, 931–959 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Adorno, T.W., Frankel-Brunswick, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. The Authoritarian Personality (Harper and Row, New York, 1950).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Kaplan, J.T., Freedman, J. & Iacoboni, M. Neuropsychologia 45, 55–64 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Knutson, K.M., Wood, J.N., Spampinato, M.V. & Grafman, J. Soc. Neurosci. 1, 25–40 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank A. Crampton and B. Lehman for assisting with data collection, and S. Taylor for laboratory support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



D.A. designed and conducted the experiment, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript. J.J. contributed to theorizing and co-wrote the manuscript. S.M. assisted in experiment design, data collection, and writing the manuscript. C.Y. provided laboratory support and supervision, and assisted in writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David M Amodio.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figure 1 and Methods (PDF 124 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Amodio, D., Jost, J., Master, S. et al. Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism. Nat Neurosci 10, 1246–1247 (2007).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing