The psychology of elections

Barry Schwartz has an interesting op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, where he claims that basic psychology leads us to choose bland representatives in government instead of fiery leaders.

Schwartz argues that how we choose leaders depends on the framing of the question. If we focus on the positives of a candidate, we're more likely to choose a more interesting, dynamic leader:

What that means is that if you want to win an election, you need to find candidates like [bland] Parent A, who give us no reason to say no, rather than Parent B, who present a complex set of features, some attractive and some problematic.

If somehow the cynicism lifted, and we saw ourselves charged with the task of deciding who to say yes to, we'd have more candidates like Parent B. Just one negative feature would not be enough to disqualify someone, in our minds. There would be little to gain by capturing and broadcasting "macaca moments," or subtly invoking old Southern fears of black men cavorting with white women. Candidates would be able to take positions and speak their minds. This might lead to the arrival of candidates who actually have positions and minds. We might even be willing to risk generating a little enthusiasm at the prospect of being led by them.

Jonah Lehrer takes this reasoning and turns it on its head:

I certainly wish Schwartz was right. But I think our democracy is suffering from the exact opposite syndrome. Mr. Bland isn't going to Washington. Instead, we have two polarized extremes both trying to drum up support from their base. It's the old Rove magic trick, and it seems to work. Why? Because voters don't like Mr. Bland. They like Mr. Gay Marriage. They like politicians that push hot-button issues, and get them viscerally excited. Just look at the most successful politicians in recent history. Pols like Hillary and Bush succeed because they are divisive, because they are the anti-bland candidates.

How can we simultaneously have polarizing and boring leaders? I think it's because there's something right in what both Schwartz and Lehrer are saying: there are some "Macaca" issues that are political suicide (though it remains to be seen whether Macaca is one of them), and there are separate, polarizing issues that will alienate some voters but bring others into the fold. The exciting leaders aren't exciting in the way Schwartz would prefer, and the despite the polarizers Lehrer mentions, there are still plenty of boring leaders as well.

Lots of other news today:


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I think it´s about the total impression.
Mirrorneurons and stuff like that. Like osmos and diffusion in the cell, something goes out other things keeps in tha fagocytoses (embraces). Like fatt who buld upp membranes (lake a snare of the world). And you then make an impression.
A creative idea.
I mean the story of psychology, like light reflecting something you feel is right, honest and true. String theory and good vibrations of the smallest things in universe (uni=one).