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Monday, March 31, 2008

Study may show the rational ignorance of voters...

One of the most interesting articles is one that is very brief and to the point, but somewhat dated. It comes from MSNBC.com in January 2006, but is very relevant to the issue of rational ignorance in voting. It is entitled, Political bias affects brain activity, study finds. It concisely points out the lack of reasoning that many people fail to go through when making decisions about important issues. The article and the study look at biases that are on both sides of the political spectrum with regard to the way that people vote or decide who to support. When test subjects were presented with statements from candidates President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry their reactions were based more on the emotional feelings rather than what reason may tell them.

“The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making. ‘None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged,’ Westen said. ‘Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.’ Notably absent were any increases in activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning ...‘The result is that the partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from the new data,’ Westen said.”

With this information in mind it is important to note that even though the study looked at those voters who were clearly on one side of the political scale or the other, when looking at other issues that were not politically based many people looked primarily at the emotional aspect of the questions at hand. Not only is their emotion involved, but some even viewed it similar to that of resolving a conflict when discussing their own views. If this is truly the way that many people think about various situations it life or with voting, it may be fair to say that in many of our choices we choose to be rationally ignorant of the truth even when it may be right in front of us. We walk away from what is real and justify our own personal beliefs no matter how wrong or right they truly are.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11009379/print/1/displaymode/1098

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