Our Political Brains

For those who think that they solely vote on reason, intelligence, and good policies alone, think again.

"The Political Brain is a
groundbreaking investigation into the role of emotion in determining
the political life of the nation. For two decades Drew Westen,
professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has
explored a theory of the mind that differs substantially from the more
"dispassionate" notions held by most cognitive psychologists, political
scientists, and economists—and Democratic campaign strategists. The
idea of the mind as a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing
the evidence bears no relation to how the brain actually works. When
political candidates assume voters dispassionately make decisions based
on "the issues," they lose. That’s why only one Democrat has been
re-elected to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt—and only one
Republican has failed in that quest.

"In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins.
Elections are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace
filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving
oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role." [read more]


Here’s a key excerpt from the book:

"What a voter needs to know most in deciding
whether to vote for one candidate or the other are four things, roughly
in this order: First, do they share the values that matter most to me,
and do they care about people like me? Second, can I trust them to
represent me faithfully? Third, do they have the personal qualities
that lead me to believe they’ll do right by my values and interests,
such as integrity, leadership, and competence? And fourth, if there’s
an issue that really matters to me (e.g., the Iraq War), what’s their
stand on it, and can I trust them to think about it and make decisions
which I would probably make if I had all the information they’ll have
as my elected representative?" [read more]

Now check out this video of Drew Westen driving his point across.

Then watch Obama’s "Country I Love" TV ad and McCain’s "624787" TV ad. Between the two candidates who moves you more? Who do you think moves the electorate more?

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  1. […] policies and issues, a big part of my decision is intuitive–my worldview is a prime mover of my political brain. And both campaigns know this. That’s why their strategies are tailored to the sensitivity of […]