A study of the brains of political partisans shed some scientific light on the obvious, and will be worth remembering in this upcoming year: The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking. “We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study.
One night George W. Bush is tossing restlessly in his White House bed. He awakens to see George Washington standing beside him. Bush looks up and asks, “George, what’s the best thing I can do to help the country?” ”Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did,” Washington advises, then fades away. The next night, Bush is astir again when he sees the ghost of Thomas Jefferson moving silently around the bedroom.