Friday, July 1, 2016

We're Rarely Rational When We Vote Because We're Rarely Rational, Period

Probably the most striking thing about any of these biases is that they are already in place long before we understand the first thing about economics or geopolitics. This was shown in a 2009 paper published in the prestigious journal Science, a paper that should be required reading just before election day each year. Show kids pairs of faces of candidates from various obscure elections. Tell them that they are about to take a long journey by boat; which of these two people would they want as their captain? And kids, ages 5 through 13, picked the winner a boggling 71% of the time.

Think about that. The automatic biases we bring to voting are already falling into place in 5-year olds considering who should captain their boat on a voyage with the Teletubbies to stop the pirates menacing to Candyland. Subterranean, unconscious forces are constantly percolating up to influence our decision-making, and yet research also indicates that the more we're aware of it, the more we can resist it. Try to remember that as you cast your ballot this year: You may be falling for the crunching sounds in the background.

- Robert M. Sapolsky

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