Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Voting with the Emotional Part of the Brain

Warning:  this will partly involve the science of the brain, and its relationship to our decision-making, such as it is.

The limbic system is located deep within the brain.  It is found beneath the cortex, which controls higher-level, logical thinking, and the brainstem, which controls motor functions, breathing, and communication with the rest of the brain.


One of the functions of the limbic lobe is to relay and process information about odors.

Odors?  Yes, and those who have read Proust (or read about his memories) understand just how strongly odor is associated with memory.  This is logical; if we encounter a particular scent that is associated with danger, it would ensure our survival if another encounter with that scent triggered an immediate response.

Similarly, scents associated with pleasant sensations/memories can be brought up again, and re-lived.  For this reason, women use scent during the courtship phase.  Afterward, they can re-kindle that loving memory by dabbing on a little scent.

Other scents that bring up good memories:  Mom's cooking (apparently, the smell is at least as important as the taste), barbeques, the smell of chlorine (I like to smell my hands after swimming - it brings back memories of my childhood - I virtually LIVED in the municipal pool), flowers - the list is endless.

The emotional reactions of the limbic system are not limited to scents.  A sub-region of the limbic system that involves emotional responses is the amygdala, which seems to have significantly different processing in men and women.  One of the differences is that women have stronger, and longer memories for emotional events.

Kinda brings what whole "why does she bring up old issues again and again?" thing into perspective, doesn't it?

Why am I focused on the emotional side of the brain today?  This is NOT something I would normally care about, as I tend to consider most people to be wildly over-emotional (and I don't mean that as a compliment).

I was watching people interviewed about the FBI report on HRC, and I was struck by how seldom they referred to the FACTS, but to their feelings.

This is something that Trump has to overcome, if he is to have a shot at winning.  Emotional voting is common among both men and women today.

You will want to read this - yes, I know that it's psychology, but it references several different studies that conclude voting is at least partially irrational and emotion-driven.

Who people watch for their news is important, too.  I suspect that much of the "disgust/fear of FoxNews" is simply that people refuse to watch because they fear that their voting inclinations will change (which might simply indicate that, at some level, they are aware that their voting is emotion-driven).

The effect is so strong that even relatively low-level emotional nudges can trip the voting in an election.

So, what does this mean for this election?

I think a LOT of the resistance to Trump is that he has encroached - and invaded - the opposition's favorite territory - the emotion-driven voter.  The opposition by individuals is, I think, that they fear their shaky hold on their traditional preferences.  In short, they fear that they will be "seduced" into voting for Trump by their controlling emotions.

Another fascinating piece about voting behavior.

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