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The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation Paperback – May 6, 2008


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The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation + Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear + Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485733
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The most interesting, informative book on politics I've read in many years" Bill Clinton "May prove to be one of the most important studies of political campaigning of recent times." Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian"

About the Author

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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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book book to anyone interested in politics.
Jack B. Petrie
Of course, Westen could argue that this is immaterial and irrelevant if the candidate can't win the election to support the issue involved.
Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty
The author presents an interesting psychological interpretation of contemporary politics in this well written, informative book.
Bokata

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Ascher on June 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Though there is nothing entirely new here, in this large well researched book Westin manages to draw together several ideas that have been part of our intellectual discourse for some time in an engaging and informative way.
Westin uses 4 themes throughout the book. First, he explains how our human brain evolved over millions of years to make decisions first with our emotions and only secondarily with our logical faculties. This is because we evolved out of other life forms that had a simpler brain structure. The first uses of the brain were for sensation and perception, uses that would tend to keep the primitive forms that were the first conscious creatures alive.
Second, he uses this model of the brain to explain why emotional intelligence controls absolutely every decision that people make, and that this is no where more true than in electoral politics. The dominance of the emotional brain predates and supersedes the thin human veil of reason, and this has proved to be a successful adaptation over thousands of years.
Third, he shows that with the exceptions of FDR and Bill Clinton the democrats have been consistently emotionally tone deaf in their national campaigns, and that they will not be able to win until this is addressed.
Finally, he explores the importance of a consistent emotionally appealing story or narrative to present to the voting public about the values of the party and the candidate. Only after voters understand and resonate with these two things do they care about the issues. The right wing understood this when they supplanted the winning narrative of the new deal with their own narrative of small government and individual hard work.
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66 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Jason E. Kline on July 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a conservative Republican. I believe that, in the end, it is better that the Republican Party win elections than the Democratic Party. Yet, this book, in all of its hatred of Bush and the GOP, is excellent.

I am a psychology teacher and debate coach (and debate author...see Public Forum Debate (The National Forensic League Library of Public Speaking and Debate)) that has spent a good amount of my professional career trying to develop strong communication and persuasion in my students. I have not had the chance to use some of the specific recommendations that Dr. Westen recommends, but a lot of them are things I already do, albeit in less than organized or specific way...

I think anyone interested in politics and/or psychology...or ANYONE who wants to be more persuasive in their writing and their speaking should read this book.

My only negative comment, and the reason I gave it one less star, is that I felt it was too partisan. At times, the prose seemed so angry that it lost some credibility. I recognize that Dr. Westen purposely directed his book to the Democratic party, but it would have been more enjoyable (in some sections) if it had been a little more calm...and not all Republicans.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Bell on May 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a frustrated Democrat who is tired of seeing his party cede important cultural territory, I devoured this book. The Political Brain is perhaps the best book I have read on crafting a party message that resonates with the American public. Drew Westin offers helpful advice to Democrats by showing them how to frame an emotionally compelling and principled stance on the issues that Republicans have used to defeat Democratic contenders for decades. Starting from the perspective of a cognitive psychologist, Westin weaves together the clinical and the politically practical in his diagnosis of the Democrats' "values" and message problems. This book is a perfect companion to George Lakoff and should be required reading for any Democratic strategist. If you have ever asked yourself what Democrats stand for or have noticed some dissonance between the Republican master-narrative and their governance, I suggest that you read The Political Brain.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The dust jacket has one line that is at the center of this book: "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." Drew Westen uses this thought as a takeoff point in his book, "The Political Brain." He asserts that (page xv) "The political brain is an emotional brain."

One point that he hammers throughout the book is that Republicans do a better job of connecting with voters at an emotional, gut level than do Democrats. Ds tend to make rational points; Rs wed their points to emotional appeals, ending up doing much better. He provides examples from the Gore-Bush and Bush-Kerry campaigns. One interesting feature of the book is the author's development of how Gore and Kerry could have crafted statements to wed emotion to policy talking points in a way to, in Westen's view, would trump the Republican efforts. As an example of where Democrats have succeeded, he notes Bill Clinton's wedding of talking points to emotional appeals.

The discussion of neurosciences and how they tie into the argument is a bit underdeveloped. Westen does discuss some studies and notes some of his own research. Nonetheless, he could have elaborated more completely and made a more compelling case. He also addresses the evolution of what he terms "the passionate brain," in which (page 51) ". . .Feeling and thinking evolved together, and nature `designed' them to work together."

He discusses specific policy arenas and how Democrats have ceded the potent ground wedding emotion and thinking, from abortion to gun control to race to taxes. He takes Democratic consultants and campaign advisors to task. There is a bit of "conflict of interest," in some senses, since he also consults for Democrats.
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