April 21, 2016

The political brain or how to make you choose

What motivates someone to choose a particular candidate, to vote blank or challenge your vote? A recent conference discussed how a voter decides. Come and see.

When the French government decided to create a neuropolitics office in May 2010, it was thought that Nicolas Sarkozy had finally gone mad. Or that the former model and singer Carla Bruni Italian had filled his head with so many pro-scientific speculations that the French president had capitulated to the lobby of white overalls. But it was not the case. The foundation of this then new unity government led by researcher Olivier Oullier, rather, was in line with a trend, a fashion still in vogue, that obstinacy of prefixing the “neuro” prefix to almost everything: neuromarketing, neuro, neuroadministración , neuroethics, neurosociology, neuroarte, as if the latest discoveries in brain science have led to a conceptual earthquake of such magnitude that the other disciplines were forced to rearrange their chips and prepare for a reclassification.

Politics, obviously, was no exception. The temptation was too great. Functional magnetic resonance scanners and the various methods that lay bare the brain gave first access to consultants and other political animals that barred black box for millennia; that true terra incognita always wanted to know and invade refiner and ensure the success of their strategies and claims: the brain of the voter inside the gelatinous and heaping mass of one hundred billion neurons in which the vote is brewing, always screening by prejudice, dogmatism and fanaticism that us admit it or not, we all have.

Would Machiavelli written Prince if he had had with these tools? As with most ucronías, there are no certainties. The truth is that the “social neuroscience” as they like to define this new breed of researchers who apply the exact sciences in the most inaccurate environments: society and human-behavior ever more insistently open the windows of the mind to bring you a cautious response to old questions: What reactions when a person listens, watches, look at a politician? What motivates a person to vote a certain candidate, to cast blank ballots or deposit a slice of salami in the envelope? Is there a brain “left” and a brain “right”? What happens in the dark labyrinth of the brain during an election campaign? The least there, you know these researchers, it is coldly. It collapsed while the rational choice theory and extinct homo economicus, recent studies reveal that we do not vote taking into account the specific facts. Rather, we vote for our values, closely linked to emotions.

“The decision is not a logical or computational process. It is guided by the emotional neuroscientist He points Facundo Manes, director of the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO) which, together with the consulting Stark Labs and fatorgenius suplemento, recently organized the international conference “The political brain” -. We live making decisions. Life is this: choose. We do not process the pros and cons of each choice. Decision making is automatic, unconscious in most cases and is guided by emotion. The political vote does not escape this logic. ”

Research has shown that when a person listens to the speech of a political candidate rational areas of the brain are activated unless the emotional areas. What follows-a wave of posters and their corresponding spots overdose campaign- do little more than ratify a decision and inclination for a candidate and to strengthen an aversion for their opponents. Hence the voter usually will not move when the facts do not fit their frames of values, some kind of neuronal switch is turned off and the dissonant facts are simply ignored. That is, our brain -so allergic to Internal- conflict blocks rational information might change our opinion.

When searching the brain roots politics is not surprising that social neuroscientists point to the frontal lobes, that region to which the great Russian neuropsychologist Alexander Luria defined several decades ago as the “organ of civilization” there lies the essence of an individual, the core of the personality, impulses and ambitions.Only humans reach a significant development and there the most advanced and complex brain functions, executive functions are performed: they are the headquarters of intentionality, anticipation, complex decision making. As the neuropsychologist Elkhonon account Goldberg in his magisterial book The executive brain, the frontal lobes are the brain what a director of an orchestra, an army general, the executive director of a company.

For more than repeat what matters is what’s inside, the physical features of a person influence us to evaluate it, especially if that person intends to govern a country or a city. “Human beings make judgments based on the faces in fractions of a second in relation to two aspects: whether a subject is affordable or should avoid and if it is weak or strong -Indicates the Bulgarian cognitive psychologist at the University Alexander Todorov of Princeton, U.S-. Our brains are wired to look at faces and infer the intentions of others. We always wondered if that person has good or bad intentions. In the case of politics, voters rely heavily on facial appearance when choosing a candidate, judge their maturity, their masculinity or femininity, his firmness, his emotional stability, and in particular their leadership qualities . “the curious -or not so much is that studies show that people with less education-and more hours of television encima- are taking electoral decisions based almost exclusively on the appearance of a candidate and not so much in their medical records, promises (or lack thereof).

As the neurobiologist Ralph Adolphs, professor of psychology at California Institute of Technology, in these processes are fundamental perception called “mirror neurons” -the empathy neurons, those discovered by Italian Giacomo Rizzolatti and help us understand the intentions of others. Are neurons of empathy with which we read the world.

Still in its infancy, the neuropolitics is heading to become a field capable of providing indications and suggestions that could well turn an election. Political advisers, however, must be patient. Despite repeated promises, the brain sciences are today where inorganic chemistry was in the days of Mendeleyev, seeking its principles of organization and developing appropriate scientific language. They have a reassuring guarantee, the fact that in recent decades learned more about how the human brain works in the history of mankind. Now, how this new knowledge will impact on education, economy and politics is a mystery.