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My mission as a researcher is to develop, test, present my best ideas about complexity and emergence in political systems.


Darren Schreiber. The Emergence of Parties: An Agent-Based Simulation. Political Research Quarterly. 2014.

This paper implements an agent-based computer simulation to demonstrate that results from Downs, Duverger, Riker, and Sundquist can be seen as emergent consequences of five simple rules about iteratively forming coalitions and adjusting policy platforms. Using simulation, I create a distribution of agents who form coalitions within a political body. By modifying and omitting the basic rules, I compare the results from plurality and majority-seeking actors and from policy-seeking, office-seeking, and mixed-strategy coalitions. A set of simple rules implemented by agents with extremely bounded knowledge are sufficient to drive the classic median voter, two party system, minimum winning coalitions, and party realignment results in a single framework.

Darren Schreiber, Greg Fonzo, Alan N. Simmons, Christopher T. Dawes, Taru Flagan, James H. Fowler, Martin P. Paulus. Red Brain, Blue Brain: Evaluative Processes Differ in Democrats and Republicans. PLoS One. 2013.

Liberals and conservatives exhibit different cognitive styles and converging lines of evidence suggest that biology influences differences in their political attitudes and beliefs. In particular, a recent study of young adults suggests that liberals and conservatives have significantly different brain structure, with liberals showing increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, and conservatives showing increased gray matter volume in the in the amygdala. Here, we explore differences in brain function in liberals and conservatives by matching publicly-available voter records to 82 subjects who performed a risk-taking task during functional imaging. Although the risk-taking behavior of Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) did not differ, their brain activity did. Democrats showed significantly greater activity in the left insula, while Republicans showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala. In fact, a two parameter model of partisanship based on amygdala and insula activations yields a better fitting model of partisanship than a well-established model based on parental socialization of party identification long thought to be one of the core findings of political science. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and they support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli.

Darren Schreiber. On Social Attribution: Implications of recent cognitive neuroscience results for race, law, and politics. Science and Engineering Ethics. 2012.

Interpreting the world through a social lens is a central characteristic of human cognition. Humans ascribe intentions to the behaviors of other individuals and groups. And, humans make inferences about others emotional and mental states. This capacity for social attribution underlies many of the concepts at the core of legal and political systems. The developing scientific understanding of the neural mechanisms used in social attribution may alter many earlier suppositions. However, just as often, these new methods will lead back to old conundrums. Cognitive neuroscience will not make the hard problems of social judgment go away.

Christopher T. Dawes, Peter J. Loewen, Schreiber, Darren, Alan N. Simmons, Taru Flagan, Richard McElreath, James H. Fowler, and Martin P. Paulus. 2012. The Neural Basis of Egalitarian Behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Individuals are willing to sacrifice their own resources to promote equality in groups. These costly choices promote equality and are associated with behavior that supports cooperation in humans, but little is known about the brain processes involved. We use functional MRI to study egalitarian preferences based on behavior observed in the “random income game.” In this game, subjects de- cide whether to pay a cost to alter group members’ randomly allocated incomes. We specifically examine whether egalitarian behavior is associated with neural activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the insular cortex, two regions that have been shown to be related to social preferences. Consistent with previous studies, we find significant activation in both regions; however, only the insular cortex activations are significantly associated with measures of revealed and expressed egalitarian preferences elicited outside the scanner. These results are consistent with the notion that brain mechanisms involved in experiencing the emotional states of others underlie egalitarian behavior in humans.

Darren Schreiber and Marco Iacoboni. 2012. Huxtables on the Brain: An fMRI study of Race and Norm Violation. Political Psychology.

While a substantial body of work has been devoted to understanding the role of negative stereotypes in racial attitudes, far less is known about how we deal with contradictions of those stereotypes. This article uses functional brain imaging with contextually rich visual stimuli to explore the neural mechanisms that are involved in cognition about social norms and race. We present evidence that racial stereotypes are more about the stereotypes than about race per se. We also identify the fusiform gyrus as a brain region potentially involved in processing social norms and provide a new avenue of research for understanding norm violation in people with borderline personality disorder.

Schreiber, Darren. 2011. From SCAN to Neuropolitics. In Man is By Nature a Political Animal, edited by P. K. Hatemi and R. McDermott. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

All political behavior is reflected in the brain, yet the brain has been treated largely as a black box by political science because of the previous limitations on our ability to make useful inferences about it. Despite being a very young field, social cognitive and affective neuroscience (SCAN) has already converged on a set of consistent results that have been verified though a variety of methods. Neuropolitics can advance the agenda of political science by founding our theories in modern notions of human nature that are in harmony with our sibling disciplines and advance the agenda of neuroscience by providing the context that drove the evolution of the human brain.

James Fowler and Darren Schreiber. Biology, politics, and the emerging science of human nature. Science (2008) vol. 322 (5903) pp. 912-4

In the past 50 years, biologists have learned a tremendous amount about human brain function
and its genetic basis. At the same time, political scientists have been intensively studying the effect
of the social and institutional environment on mass political attitudes and behaviors. However,
these separate fields of inquiry are subject to inherent limitations that may only be resolved
through collaboration across disciplines. We describe recent advances and argue that biologists
and political scientists must work together to advance a new science of human nature.

Darren Schreiber. 2007. Political cognition as social cognition: Are we all political sophisticates? In The Affect Effect: Dynamics of Emotion in Political Thinking and Behavior, edited by A. Crigler, M. MacKuen, G. E. Marcus and W. R. Neuman. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Participation in national-level politics has been the focus of much of the political behavior literature. From seminal works such as The People's Choice (Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1948), The American Voter (Campbell et al. 1960), Public Opinion and American Democracy (Key 1961), and An Economic Theory of Democracy (Downs 1957) to more con- temporary work such as The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (Zaller i992), the theoretical focus and empirical examples have drawn from na- tionalpolitics. Politics, however, can have a broader meaning than compe- tition among candidates, officeholders, and parties at the national level. We can follow Aristotle's (1996) claim, originally made circa 350 B.c., that "man is by nature a political animal" and observe the evidence for his contention in family politics, office politics, church politics, neigh- borhood politics, and the politics existing in any assemblage of humans.

Joseph N. Capella, and Darren Schreiber. 2006. The Interaction Management Function of Nonverbal Cues: Theory and Research about Mutual Behavioral Influence in Face-to-Face Settings. In The SAGE Handbook of Nonverbal Communication, edited by V. Manusov and M. L. Patterson. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

The research that will he reviewed in this chapter will show that this automatic sense of management involves control over the more micro scopic events during interaction. People are, in general, quite unaware that such influences exist and, under most circumstances, do not employ such responses intentionally. More generally, this chapter updates recent reviews of the patterns of behavioral coordination that characterize social interaction and focuses on the explanations behind these patterns. We will show that recent research has added to the fact base about coordination in ways that strengthen and extend previ ous research while, at the same time, offering some new empirical puzzles that need resolving. We will explore some possible answers beyond those ava

Matt Lieberman, Kevin Oschner, Darren Schreiber. Is Political Cognition like Riding a Bicycle? How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology (2003) pp. 681-704

Our understanding of political phenomena, including political attitudes and sophistication, can be enriched by incorporating the theories and tools of cognitive neuroscience-in particular, the cognitive neuroscience of nonconscious habitual cognition (akin to bicycle riding). From this perspective, different types of informational "building blocks" can be construed from which different types of political attitudes may arise. A reflection-reflexion model is presented that describes how these blocks combine to produce a given political attitude as a function of goals, primes, expertise, and inherent conflict in considerations relevant to the attitude. The ways in which neuroimaging methods can be used to test hypotheses of political cognition are reviewed.


Working Papers

Your Brain is Built for Politics (book manuscript)

The book draws from an extensive body of research in biology to argue that your brain is built for politics. Negotiating increasingly complex and shifting coalitions drove the human brain to evolve a set of mechanisms that modern humans now engage when they participate in national politics. The book synthesizes results from six brain imaging experiments, a large-n response latency study, and a computational model of the visual cortex to explore how these brain mechanisms underpin phenomena such as political sophistication, political attitudes, racial attitudes, and moral reasoning. Predictions of party affiliation with 82% accuracy, election results with 65-75% accuracy, and both egalitarian attitudes and behaviors are achieved with surprisingly simple models accounting for brain function. The product is a new view of human nature. Biology is shown to be subservient to the demands of human politics. Rather than a reductionist or deterministic argument, I contend the shifting coalitions of human society require that we are hardwired to not be hardwired.

Darren Schreiber, Greg Fonzo. 2012. Throwing a big party? Neurocorrelates of membership in the major political parties.

The few studies using functional brain imaging to investigate political phenomena have focused upon members of the two main political parties in the United States. However a substantial portion of the voters do not identify with either the Republicans or Democrats. In this paper, we identify the neural differences that distinguish members of the two main parties, from non- partisans. In a gambling task, members of the two main parties appear to have greater levels of brain activity in Posterior Medial Cortices that have been previously identified as critical for social cognition and sophisticated political cognition.


Office: Department of Politics, Amory B216, Rennes Drive, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4RJ, United Kingdom
E-mail: darren.schreiber@gmail.com
Twitter: @polneuro