Editorial Reviews. Review. "(o)ne of the most insightful books on politics and the art of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation - site edition by Drew Westen. Download it once and read it on your site. while Democrats lose by appealing to the mind. This fas- cinating book will appeal to hearts and minds on both sides of the aisle. The Political Brain is scary and. A recent brain-imaging study shows that our political predilections are a Pace Will Rogers, I am not a member of any organized political party.
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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. PDF | book review | ResearchGate, the professional network for scientists. The Political Brain is a ground-breaking investigation into the role of emotion in determining the political life of the nation by Drew Westen, professor of.
Bryan Dawe: So you're across the river.
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John Clarke: Well we're across where the river used to be yes. Yeah, the river used to run through there. Bryan Dawe: Really. And as we heard earlier, liberal or conservative -- it could all be in your thinking style.
But what about feelings and emotion? Might neuroscience provide insights into the role of gut instinct as we head to the polls this coming week? Just wondering when it comes to voting do you vote with your heart or with your mind? Voter: No I wouldn't vote with my mind, not my mind no. What the people are actually going through at the moment, you know, it's up and down, up and down and the politicians don't know what they're doing actually.
I don't think they really do. Anita Barraud: On the day with your pencil in your hand, what makes you make that decision? Voter: It wouldn't be up here, it'd be the whole body situation you know -- putting me on a spot isn't it. Voter: Oh I don't really care about voting. Anita Barraud: You know that you're going to have to vote though don't you? Voter: Yes but I just won't mark the paper it's what most people do.
Anita Barraud: Why is that? Voter: Because I don't believe in anybody who's running, nobody will do anything for me, well nobody has said anything that they're going to do that would affect me at all.
Anita Barraud: And what are the things that affect you? Voter: I have a mortgage, I have a decent job and I work hard, it's as simple as that. All the hard workers don't get anything so Drew Westen: The four biggest predictors of people's voting behaviour are first and foremost their feelings towards the parties and their principles.
The second is their gut level feelings about the person who's running, the third is their feelings towards that person's personal attributes like strength and empathy and leadership and every once in a while competence. And then finally, last but quite least is their feelings about the candidate's position on issues. So if you start from that bottom of the hierarchy you're actually not going to do a very good job of winning hearts and minds.
His new book, The Political Brain, stems from his own research. He's interested in what drives our political decisions. Heart or mind, emotion or rationality? Emotion he says is the driving force.
Drew Westen: Oh you bet and this is the tricky part about emotion, is that emotions evolved to pull us towards things that are good for us and to push us away from things that are bad for us and there's a reason why we and other mammalian species and certainly all primates have emotional reactions. Because they in general function well for us -- if we see a threat to our family we fight it or we flee, but the flip side of that is that our emotions can pull us toward and away from ideas that we want to believe or not believe.
Anita Barraud: Drew Westen published a compelling study in the run-up to the American presidential battle. Thirty committed Republicans and Democrats were put in a brain scanner.
Some of the statements from both candidates were quite obviously contradicting earlier ones. In one statement Kerry was criticising the decision to invade Iraq, in another he supported the campaign. They found the brains of Democrats and Republicans were quick to identify the inconsistencies of their opponent candidate, but appeared to cast a positive light on their favourite. Not surprising says Drew Westen.
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Now there have been dozens of brain imaging studies using MRI, using PET, using a range of techniques to look at what gets activated in the brain when people are reasoning. And what typically gets activated is a part of the brain that is towards the front of the head but along the sides and towards the top.
Anita Barraud: This is the dorsal prefrontal cortex? Drew Westen: That's right the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex. So that's what you would expect, you'd expect to see dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, it's the reasoning circuit of the brain, it is a lot else, it's not just like one part of the brain is active but that's the most active in a reasoning test.
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We expected to see distress circuits in the brain becoming active, that people would become emotional and it would be negative emotion circuits and we certainly saw those. We did see some activation in the amygdala which you would expect to see when people are experiencing negative emotions. We also saw activations in the part of the brain called the insular gyrus which is involved in reactions like disgust.
And we saw some other activations that had been seen in studies showing distress of various forms. The second thing that we saw was an enormous activation in the anterior cingulate, which is a part of the brain also towards the front and middle of the brain of the frontal lobes, that is involved in monitoring and dealing with conflicts.
So what we're seeing at this point now is a brain that is in distress, a brain that is in conflict. We also are seeing and this is while they are confronted with that contradiction slide, that second slide where they first got something nice from their candidate now they get something that's threatening to it and they are already figuring out that there's a contradiction here and they are trying to figure out what to do with it.
So the third part of the brain that becomes active are some circuits right between the eyes around the orbital frontal cortex which are involved among other things in regulating emotions.
That is trying to figure out how do I get out of this feeling. So what we did not see were activations, differential or higher levels of activation in those reasoning circuits.
So what we are seeing is essentially a pure emotion getting activated. What we then saw was quite remarkable, which was in the next slide when it comes up, when we asked them to first consider whether or not there was a contradiction and then we ask them to rate on a four point scale whether they actually saw one in the next slide, whether these two statements were contradictory.
The political brain
But in any case our participants didn't disappoint us, the Democrats had no trouble ferreting out Mr Bush's contradictions, Republicans had no trouble discovering Mr Kerry's contradictions, they both rated them close to a four. But they rated their own guy's contradictions at about a two, meaning I don't see much of a contradiction at all.
And while they were doing that all those circuits I told you about, those negative emotion circuits, those conflict circuits, essentially shut off and what turned on instead were some positive emotion circuits, reward circuits. Anita Barraud: Well that's the thing I don't get, the ventral striatum that deals with reward and pleasure, putting that in context to political candidates.
Drew Westen: Well it is hard to think about political candidates and pleasure in the same breath, but the way that it sits quite well with prior research is that there's a good bit of research in political science showing that if you essentially show people a piece of a debate where their candidate didn't do very well, they often end up liking their candidate better.
And what our study is essentially showing is the brain is working overtime to discount all the ways you don't like this guy if you are committed to him, all the new information that is threatening to your view of them, and actually there seems to be a rebound effect or an overdrive effect where not only do you get rid of the negative feelings but you get a burst of positive feeling for essentially having defended against information that you didn't want to believe.
Interestingly the ventral striatum and nucleus accumbens, which are related structures that are involved in reward and were activated in the study, they are also involved when addicts get their fix. So if you have the term in Australia 'political junkies', it makes as much sense in Australia as it does in America. Natasha Mitchell: Political junkies don't we know a few of those. Professor Drew Western speaking there with producer Anita Barraud.
And Drew Westen is quick to remind us that in fact rationality and emotion are intertwined in the mind, not opposite sides of the same coin. And keep in mind too that searching for tea leaves or brain spots in a scanner is an evolving science despite the media headlines.
More info, streaming audio, the podcast and mid week a transcript all on our website.
And on the new All in the Mind blog this week, do you have a brain sex? Try the test, it's free to register and comment, come and visit. His careful dissection of the harmful effect the Enlightenment has had on the past forty years of Democratic campaign strategy blends his skills in both areas. History is littered with false dichotomies. A recurrent one has involved reason versus emotions. Perhaps the Enlightenment treated religious faith as an emotion, in fact, as one of the most misguided and irrational emotions.
Over the course of history, the Church often stood in opposition to science. More directly, the Enlightenment was a reaction to the corruption of the clergy, and the political power the Church had accumulated, allying itself with entrenched monarchies, thwarting the growth of more democratic societies.
Ironically, an unintended consequence of the Enlightenment has been a sort of return of the repressed, the implicit deification of Reason, with scientists as its white-robed priests. Rhetoric has acquired a bad name. He will challenge skeptical readers who insist on ranking intellect high above emotions. As I mentioned earlier, Westen grasps the emotional power of the humble though paradoxically named monosyllable. Count them: that last sentence consisted in 11 monosyllabic words! Shakespeare, who knew his way around the English language, ended eight of his Sonnets with monosyllabic couplets.
One answer to this enigma seems to be the emotionally determined, irrational attitudes voters have to economic issues. A minimum-wage worker who was supporting his wife and children on his meager earnings explained that he voted for George W. Instead, the vast majority is on-line; at least they are now. And some of us do not yet have Internet access in all of our favorite readings spots. Unfortunately, the potential for corruption is a bipartisan blight that infects all too many politicians or political groups when they become too powerful and too entrenched in their position of power.
However, no one wants to see those excesses simply replaced one day by Democratic corruption. Westen tends to focus almost exclusively on general elections, not primaries.
As a result, he has much less to say about Democrats campaigning against fellow Democrats. So that adds to the polarization of his discussions of Democrats against Republicans, as though it is tantamount to the forces of good versus the forces of evil which, sadly, it often is. Who should read this book? Democrats, according to Westen p.
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Differences and Similarities Between Existential Therapy and-libre.Messages crafted about the welfare of children and our extended family are themes that will resonate emotionally with the electorate.
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He brings hope that we can come to our senses, look honestly at how much havoc George W. In other words. Anita Barraud: So you're not saying that we have a left-wing brain or a right-wing brain? Experts have estimated it may take decades to repair all of this completely unnecessary damage.
Candidates who start at the bottom of the hierarchy, presenting voters with position statements and laundry lists of facts and figures, trusting them to weigh up the information and reach a rational decision, generally lose. Political campaigns are emotionally laden with words and images designed to provoke strong feelings which activate networks in the brain and become the avenues down which true or false political messages travel. Emotions, conscious and unconscious, bind individuals into groups and society.