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

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PublicAffairs, 2007 - Political Science - 457 pages
23 Reviews
The Political Brain is a groundbreaking investigation into the role of emotion in determining the political life of the nation. For two decades Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has explored a theory of the mind that differs substantially from the more "dispassionate" notions held by most cognitive psychologists, political scientists, and economists—and Democratic campaign strategists. The idea of the mind as a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing the evidence bears no relation to how the brain actually works. When political candidates assume voters dispassionately make decisions based on "the issues," they lose. That's why only one Democrat has been re-elected to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt—and only one Republican has failed in that quest.

In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. Elections are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role. Westen shows, through a whistle-stop journey through the evolution of the passionate brain and a bravura tour through fifty years of American presidential and national elections, why campaigns succeed and fail. The evidence is overwhelming that three things determine how people vote, in this order: their feelings toward the parties and their principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven't decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates' policy positions.

Westen turns conventional political analyses on their head, suggesting that the question for Democratic politics isn't so much about moving to the right or the left but about moving the electorate. He shows how it can be done through examples of what candidates have said—or could have said—in debates, speeches, and ads. Westen's discoveries could utterly transform electoral arithmetic, showing how a different view of the mind and brain leads to a different way of talking with voters about issues that have tied the tongues of Democrats for much of forty years—such as abortion, guns, taxes, and race. You can't change the structure of the brain. But you can change the way you appeal to it. And here's how…

  

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

User Review  - Jessica - Goodreads

I found this book while browsing my library's digital media collection and was drawn in by the premise of looking at political decisions through the lens of cognitive science. Although none of the ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Jamie VW - Goodreads

There are moments in this treatise that I stopped and marveled at how intuitive so many of the theories are that Westen presents in this book. The real revelation of the book therefore is how ... Read full review

Contents

Winning States of Mind
3
Rational Minds Irrational Campaigns
25
The Evolution of the Passionate Brain
45
The Emotions Behind the Curtain
69
Special Interests in Mind
89
Trickleup Politics
117
Part Two A Blueprint for Emotionally Compelling Campaigns
143
Writing an Emotional Constitution
145
Racial Consciousness and Unconsciousness
219
Death and Taxes
249
Hope Inspiration and Political Intelligence
283
Positively Negative
317
Terror Networks
349
Civil and Uncivil Unions
377
Acknowledgments
421
Notes
423

Aborting Ambivalence
171
Gunning for Common Ground
193

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About the author (2007)

\Drew Westen received his B.A. at Harvard, an M.A. in Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex (England), and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan, where he subsequently taught for six years. For several years he was Chief Psychologist at Cambridge Hospital and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered" and lives in Atlanta.

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