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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
People don't seem to understand that elections are not won or lost based on issues. Westen's research documents the role of emotion. Read morePublished 25 days ago by Arizona EAGLEtarian
An extraordinary book that has a place in the library of any progressive.Published 2 months ago by Ron Peterson
Starts out interesting but gets increasingly partisan as it goes on. Still, plenty of interesting anecdotes about the way voters view political candidates.Published 4 months ago by Andrew
Fairly interesting. I especially liked the first part that described their research.Published 4 months ago by itsadelusion
A must for any consultant in the political arena.
I have applied it, and proof that most of the strategic actions exposed through this book, have magnificent results. Read more
This book can be summed up in two sentences: 1. Emotion is a greater determinant of voters' political choices than reason and 2. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Anne Wilson
Changed the way I operate in the world of politics.Published 12 months ago by Warwick Bruce Chapman