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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Politics, transparency, and appealing to our emotional brains

"It is hard to reason someone out of belief they did not reason into".  I am not sure where I heard this quote. I know it was not mine but I do not who to credit it to. However, it really summarizes what I observed in the last political season.

When the campaigns began, candidates for the most part tried to take the high road, appealing to the voters on the basis of intellect and reason. I came to realize that these appeals were directed to what Kahneman and Tversky called system two, our cognitive brains. However, as the campaigns progressed and became more competitive, the focus of ads changed. The term often used by the commentators was "going negative". I realized that going negative simply meant changing from focusing on the cognitive brains of voters to their emotional brains or what Kahneman and Tversky called system one.

It only makes sense to do this given the role that our emotional brains play in decision making. Politics will always ultimately be decided by emotion. We are emotional creatures. Move something into the political realm and this is what you should expect. Don't be surprised when this happens.

Recognizing that voters respond at an emotional level to issues they may not fully comprehend on a cognitive level may be interpreted as believing that voters are stupid. The world is so complex and the amount of information out there to assimilate to understand the huge universe of issues is beyond the comprehension of any given human. When we run into situations where we do not have all the information to make deliberative decisions, we default to using our emotional brains.

The arrogant pricks out there use these circumstances to call the public stupid. I use these circumstances to highlight why certain decisions should not be moved into political spheres.

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