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The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

de Drew Westen

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The Political Brain is a groundbreaking scientific investigation into how the mind works, how the brain works, and what this means for why candidates win and lose elections.
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The unfortunate thing about Westen's book is that he probably is correct in describing how our brains respond to emotional political adds rather than on the basic facts behind them. Weston provides examples of well planned political speeches from the past, and effective political ads from previous elections (mostly all Republican ads), and explains why they grabbed the listeners on an emotional level. A life-long Democrat, Weston also bemoans the lack of effective responses or campaigns of the Democratic Party on a National level, with few exceptions. His writing tends to evolve into recommendations for Democratic candidates in general. Ultimately, his insights and recommendations are interesting, but the unfortunate thing, and his point, is that more and more, future campaigns are likely to be decided by clever adds than by the policies and ideas of the candidates. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
The sub-title of this book is, 'The role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation' and, this perhaps sums up the main point of this work better than the actual title.

It is, of course, a very valid point that politicians need to engage their emotions in an election. Whilst the public will say that facts are the main requirement, the truth is that we lead busy lives and the general public do not have the time, or frankly the inclination, to study all the issues. If something is having a direct effect, at the moment, then one is in tune, otherwise, the politician needs to convince us that he/she is 'one of us'. In Great Britain, this has been done by Nigel Farage, and in the US by Mr Trump. It takes very little study to realise that both are the ultimate establishment figures and yet, our desire to believe otherwise has seen them through.

Drew Weston does not advocate these false sentiments, but suggests that true feelings are vital. There is much to be learned from this book but, one must remember that, under the archaic systems, of both countries, the colour of your money is a better indicator of success. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Dec 1, 2016 |
Fascinating and important book about how voters reach decisions on how to cast their votes. It's not logic and reason and measured views on policy, people, it's emotion. And that's why the results of elections can often seem so odd, given the expressed views of the electorate. This book goes a long way to explaining why U.S. voters, in particular, seem so unresponsive to arguments directed to their assumed self-interest (from Democrats) and so responsive to emotional appeals (from Republicans). I which more Democratic political operatives would read this, and act upon it. ( )
  annbury | Aug 31, 2010 |
When I picked up this book, I was expecting a more rigorous psychological analysis. This book was actually a purely political commentary on how the Democrats are not as good as the Republicans in appealing to the emotions of potential voters. It came with lots of examples of advertisements and campaign gimmicks which either appeal or don’t appeal to emotions.

Unfortunately, Westen is just a little too militantly Democratic to make this book truly good. He used the opportunity to criticize Republican policies and almost made it sound like racism was part of the Republican platform. He also tended to make very generalized comments on how people really feel about issues, without providing any strong evidence. For instance, he gave an example of how he and his wife felt when they had an (unfortunate) late-term miscarriage—they were happy when a nurse finally referred to the remains as “the fetal remains” instead of “your baby.” He then said: “This shows you how most people feel about late term fetuses. Even though they are very sad to have lost the fetus, they still don’t feel that it is their baby.” (Or something along those lines.) Although I don’t object to his feelings on this subject, he shouldn’t give an example of how ONE couple feels as proof that most people feel that way. I could as easily come up with someone who feels the opposite and come to the conclusion that everyone feels THAT way, instead.

In other words, don’t read it as a scholarly psychological analysis, but as a partisan political book that makes some interesting points. ( )
  The_Hibernator | May 22, 2010 |
The Political Brain was a revelation to me. I am a fan of both Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who criticizes political communication as deceptive, distracting and bad for democracy, and Samuel Popkin, who says that voters make reasonable decisions under conditions of low information rationality. Drew Westen's book provides insight into how both of these fine social scientists can be correct. Westen uses recent insights into how brains process information to show how voters made decisions. One caveat: his point of view is unrepentantly partisan as he uses brain science to give advice to Democrats on how to win elections. I love this book and wish that he had written it in a less partisan format so I could assign it to my campaigns classes. ( )
  etsmith | Apr 5, 2010 |
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The Political Brain is a groundbreaking scientific investigation into how the mind works, how the brain works, and what this means for why candidates win and lose elections.

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