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Love and Politics

Are political differences hurting your relationships? Learn to talk politics without pushing away the ones you love.

Spinning Your Wheels

Besides causing tension, trying to change the mind of a staunch Democrat or Republican is probably fruitless. That's the view of Emory University psychologist Drew Westen, PhD, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, Westen and his colleagues found the political arena is highly emotional for strong partisans.

"The data from our own brain scanning study suggest that you can't reason with a strong partisan from the right or left, because the reasoning circuits just don't turn on," Westen tells WebMD. "You're unlikely to do anything but reinforce their view." People closer to the political center are more open to alternate views, he adds.

So is there ever hope of changing a partner's political stance? "It's worth the conversation," Westen says, if your partner is between the ages of 18 and 30 and does not come from a strong partisan family. "There's a window in young adulthood when people are open to change, particularly when major events or inspiring political figures come along."

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Reviewed on February 01, 2008

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