Associations between parental ideology and neural sensitivity to cognitive conflict in children

Tracy A. Dennis, David M. Amodio, Laura J. O’Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Processes through which parental ideology is transmitted to children—especially at a young age prior to the formation of political beliefs—remain poorly understood. Given recent evidence that political ideology is associated with neural responses to cognitive conflict in adults, we tested the exploratory hypothesis that children’s neurocognitive responses to conflict may also differ depending on their parents’ ideology. We assessed relations between parental political ideology and children’s neurocognitive responses to conflict, as measured by the N2 component of the event-related potential. Children aged 5–7 completed an age-appropriate flanker task while electroencephalography was recorded, and the N2 was scored to incongruent versus congruent flankers to index conflict processing. Because previous research documents heightened liberal–conservative differences in threat-relevant contexts, each trial of the task was preceded by an angry face (threat-relevant) or comparison face (happy or neutral). An effect of parental ideology on the conflict-related N2 emerged in the threat condition, such that the N2 was larger among children of liberals compared with children of moderates and conservatives. These findings suggest that individual differences in neurocognitive responses to conflict, heightened in the context of threat, may reflect a more general pattern of individual differences that, in adults, relates to political ideology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015


  • Children
  • Conflict monitoring
  • Conflict sensitivity
  • N2
  • Political ideology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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