Study finds link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism / LGBTQ Nation

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A new study has found that people who have suffered certain types of brain damage are more receptive to religious fundamentalism.

Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University and his team of researchers studied a group of Vietnam War veterans. 119 had suffered a head injury and 30 had not. Most were Christians, but about a third said they had no religion.

Grafman believed that damage to the prefrontal cortex would make someone more prone to fundamentalism. This region of the brain contains two specific areas associated with cognitive flexibility, the ability to update beliefs based on new information.

Fundamentalism discourages critical thinking and asking questions. Grafman therefore hypothesized that people whose prefrontal cortex has suffered some sort of trauma – and therefore have less cognitive flexibility – would be more likely to accept fundamentalist messages.

That’s what he found. Participants with lesions of parts of the prefrontal cortex important for cognitive flexibility scored higher in a survey assessing religious fundamentalism.

In more extensive tests, participants with brain damage scored lower on a psychological test measuring cognitive flexibility and on a test measuring open-mindedness.

The results do not only concern the effects of brain trauma, but also a possible neurological origin of the fundamentalism of some people. Neuroscientist Bobby Azarian writes to Raw story that there are other reasons why these parts of the brain might not work the way they do in others, such as drug addiction or genetics, and even suggests that “extreme religious indoctrination” could hinder the development of the brain. prefrontal cortex.

The study needs to be repeated and brain trauma could only explain 20% of the variance in fundamentalism found by the researchers, so this isn’t proof that every fundamentalist you argue with on Facebook has been abandoned when they were babies.

Instead, it’s another piece of the puzzle that explains why some people are able to accept indoctrination and resist conflicting information, while others can’t help but question what we taught them.


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