What’s Political about Human Brains?

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Have you ever wondered how political leaders’ brains work for or against ethics, reason and emotion?

News of political infighting, stalemates, accusations and posturing flood us daily.  We watch  opportunities for greatness fade, when political leaders  fail to grow emotional and rational skills to achieve what they campaigned for. But do you know why  brain operations differ between ethical and self-serving  public leaders?

Interestingly the human brain literally changes and reconfigures itself daily – based more on what people do than what they say. Both ethical and unethical choices involve emotions, and reason and daily actions lead quite quickly to ethical and unethical habits.

Check out the Czech President as he pilfers a pen during a recent address given with a Chilean leader Sebastian Pinera.  One government leader who works against ethical brainpower with even one self-serving act, literally rewires his brain to simply pinch what he wants next time, and likely look the other way. This leader just rewired more brainpower for getting what he wants, simply because it showed up.

Similarly, reactions to conflicts are also stored in the brain’s basal ganglia. Each time political leaders effectively solve problems for instance, or  show care and concern for others, they store compassionate and generous approaches to problem solving in their brain’s amygdala – the seat of emotions.

For some – it’s calm and giving, for others it’s rage and grabbing. Have you noticed how ethical leaders develop genuine care and support for people they serve? The opposite is also true.

What about the political brain’s ability to live in denial?

It happens daily. In denial, the Czech President may well have told his brain he deserved that pen he scarfed,  for instance, or that the Chilean leaders have many more pens. Eventually the brain begins to believe whatever lies it is told to justify unethical acts.

Can you see how corruption breeds corruption? With each action and excuse to justify it, new neuron pathways are created for more of the same. Furthermore, that night – during  REM sleep – the brain rewires itself,  based on the prior day’s action. Add to that the fact, that people’s brains come with mirror neurons, which is innate equipment that mimics behavior of others observed.

Simply put, politicians lead with ideas they mimic, ideas present in their gene pools, and ideas generated because of daily actions that literally change their brains.

Most agree that far too often we watch more in-fighting than serving from political leaders. We stand helpless while government leaders defend one side of key issues, without regard for other valued perspectives. Or we suffer a leader’s  insistence on moving forward aggressively with one narrow plan, in spite of facts that could improve possibilities for another. That fact raises yet another question.

How does the divided party system impact political minds?

Some politicians, for instance, exchange civility for arrogance, by  demanding one party line only, while completely denying another’s wisdom? That tendency too, is connected to the human brain’s natural default to ruts, entrenched by daily actions.

Stay tuned for further illustrations of  innovative political leaders who risk using civility, and who toss their talents into the ring with ethics. Observe others to see why some political leaders tend to reinforce arrogance or rewire regularly for unethical behavior.

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