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The Science of Your Political Views

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

While Canadian politics could never match the emotional idiocy of American politics, I’ve seen some pretty heated discussions in the past few weeks.

The Canadian federal election is a couple of weeks away, and with the debates over and done, we are in the home stretch of campaigning.

But how much do attack-ads and party platforms really affect our decision of whom to vote for? Is it possible that our political leanings are more influenced by ‘nature’ than ‘nurture’?

An article in The Globe today discusses the neuroscience behind political viewpoints. As it turns out, the brain of a conservative works differently than that of a liberal.

Dr. David Amodio, Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University, discussed what these differences were, and how they affect what political party we support.

According to a 2007 paper Dr. Amodio published in Nature Neuroscience:

on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty.

So conservatives tend to be more, shall we say, stubborn in their political viewpoints than liberals, who tend to gather more information and can be more flexible with their views.

While this may conjure up a stereotypical image of the crotchety old man, so set in his ways that he refuses to vote for anyone but the Conservatives, you should take these studies with a grain of salt.

It is only fair to point out that most of these studies are designed by liberals and may have some bias, and there are certainly many exceptions to these “rules”.

One very interesting study discussed in The Globe conducted at Princeton University:

people were shown black-and-white photographs of the faces of rival political candidates. After viewing each pair of photos for a mere half a second, they were asked which candidate looked more competent. In fact, the candidates they judged to be more competent had won their races two-thirds of the time.

This indicates that, regardless of political leanings, people tend to vote with their emotions as much, if not more, than with their brains. As much as I hate attack ads and staged photo-ops, it would seem the strategists are using science to their advantage.

So whether you identify yourself as a Liberal or a Conservative, NDP or Green, it couldn’t hurt any of us to be aware that the way our brains work can influence how we vote, and we should make an extra effort to stay informed on all the issues; instead of voting for the same party every time just out of habit.

My Favourite Blog Right Now

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

It is election time in Canada (again), which means a plethora of poll data is just waiting to be analyzed by journalists, pundits and, well me.

So since I like numbers and statistics, my favourite blog for the rest of the month will be TheeHundredEight.com

ThreeHundredEight.com

This site amalgamates poll data and gives a projection of the next parliament. It is also updated every day so you can obsess over stats every single morning!

Now, I know Canadian politics does not have the animosity, craziness, stupidity or entertainment value of American politics, but that is something we Canadians should be proud of; even if its less fun to watch on TV.

While this site may only be interesting to my readers who occupy the intersection of this Venn diagram:

which should be what? Like, 8 people? 12? Meh, whatever. The site also gives poll data by province and even by riding, so even if you don’t like stats you may be interested in seeing which way the wind is blowing in your area.

Since I live in Alberta, and I am a bleeding heart left-wing hippy (which is how conservatives try to paint anyone who is not conservative), my vote will pretty much be useless. But I will still vote for poops and giggles.

Actually, The Globe and Mail also has a nice summary of the party platforms on its website. It is being continually updated as well, so keep an eye on that if you want a nice summary of the different platforms.

Hurray for democracy! And statistics!