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Neurobiology and Politics: A Response to Commentators

  • John R. Hibbing


Let me begin by thanking editor Jeff Isaac for inspiring and bringing to fruition this exchange. Securing the participation of nine academics and then cajoling us to meet deadlines and follow instructions is a remarkable accomplishment and I can only hope the finished product approaches his hopes for the enterprise. I would also like to thank the eight scholars who provided commentaries on my target essay. I am truly fortunate that such an all-star cast was willing to spend time pondering the role of neurobiology and politics. They assisted me in better understanding my own positions, and who can ask for more than that? I do not have the space here to offer the point-by-point response that their comments deserve, so I will instead concentrate on the two concerns that were raised most frequently: first, whether biological approaches can answer the kinds of questions political scientists should be asking, and second, whether, regardless of their value in answering questions, applying biological techniques to social behaviors leads to normatively unpalatable conclusions. Before addressing these two important matters, however, it is worth a moment to mention several areas of agreement.



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Dodd, Michael D., Balzer, Amanda, Jacobs, Carly M., Gruszczynski, Michael W., Smith, Kevin B., and Hibbing, John R.. 2012. “The Political Left Rolls with the Good; The Political Right Confronts the Bad.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences 367(1589): 640–9.
Hibbing, John R., Smith, Kevin B., and Alford, John R.. 2013. Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Difference. New York: Routledge.
Inbar, Yoel, Pizarro, David A., and Bloom, Paul. 2009. “Conservatives Are More Easily Disgusted Than Liberals.” Cognition and Emotion 23(4): 714–25.
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Kahneman, Daniel, and Tversky, Amos. 1979. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.” Econometrica 47(2): 363–91.
Madsen, Douglas. 1985. “A Biochemical Property Relating to Power Seeking in Humans.” American Political Science Review 79(2): 448–57.
Simon, Herbert. 1957. Models of Man. New York: Wiley.
Smith, Kevin B., Oxley, Douglas R., Hibbing, Matthew V., Alford, John R., and Hibbing, John R.. 2011. “Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-right Political Orientations.” PLoS ONE 6(10): e25552.
Somit, Albert, and Peterson, Steven A.. 1998. “Biopolitics after Three Decades—A Balance Sheet. British Journal of Political Science 28(3): 559–71.
Thaler, Richard T. 1992. The Winner's Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Neurobiology and Politics: A Response to Commentators

  • John R. Hibbing


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