Here are some thoughts on politics and our tribal nature.
A very interesting analysis of the role of political parties as shorthand for values. One thing I've found inexplicable in this election is the lack of discussion in the debates about McCain and Palin as representatives of a Republican worldview. People often vote a straight ticket, based only on the candidates' party affiliation. So, when McCain said last night, "I'm not George Bush," why didn't Obama say, "But you Republicans all believe the same things?"
I am not so sure that using the oxytocin response to evaluate candidates is such a great idea. I would guess that our brains release oxytocin when we hear certain words or phrases that are comforting or cheering -- and isn't this an unconscious response triggered by the amygdala, the seat of emotions but not reason?
This is why politicians use certain phrases or code words: They intuitively know they'll provoke a positive response (probably the result of oxytocin.
I think too many people base their votes on the oxytocin response. They say, "I just don't like him," or, "I really like her."
But what about the prefrontal cortex, the seat of reason? A politician may say all the right things to make us feel good, but shouldn't we then analyze whether are feelings are based on facts, such as the politician's legislative actions throughout his or her career?
Paul J. Zak is a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. His book The Moral Molecule will be published in 2012.
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