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

ISBN: 1586484257

ISBN13: 9781586484255

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

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Book Overview

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...

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Want to Win? Read this Book!

Drew Westen's The Political Brain describes why Democrats routinely lose to Republicans despite being right on the issues. Democrats approach elections like job interviews, whereas Republicans see elections as dates. Specifically, Democrats foolishly believe that voters are "dispassionate" calculators of relative utility whereas Republicans understand that to win the mind you must first capture the heart. Democrats will find the passages dealing with Bush/Gore and Bush/Kerry agonizing reading. Again and again, George Bush and his attack dogs mauled Al Gore without any response. Gore foolishly allowed Bush to go scot free on his drunken-cocaine-belly up business record. Kerry stupidly allowed draft dodging war zero Bush to "swift boat" him into oblivion. Both Gore and Kerry thought they were taking the high ground by ignoring Bush's slimy attacks. Instead, they took the fast track to oblivion. In both cases, Kerry and Gore chose not to rebut Bush's vicious attacks and by so doing, they appeared weak. Voters thought 'if you can't fight back against Bush, how will you fight back against America's enemies'? Westen's most compelling passages are his proscriptions to Democrats. When Republicans demagogue on Flag Burning, Democrats should counter with "Flag Hiding" proposals that legally require all deceased service people to be brought home in flag draped coffins in public. That way, Republicans are forced to show the true cost of their wars and bloodlust. The GOP "death tax" is countered by a Democratic charge of a Republican "birth tax", i.e., the monstrous Bush-Cheney deficits impose a gigantic tax burden on every baby born in every state in this nation. Some of Westen's more detailed explanations of scientific procedure and methodology are turgid and difficult reading. But hopefully, he can release a new book in a role playing format. Barack Obama receives high marks for his intuitive, charismatic style. But all Democrats can and should learn from this important book.

Valuable Advice for an Aspiring Political Candidate

Some months ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book by Dr. Frank Luntz titled "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear." I thought this to be a valuable contribution to the general field of what traditionally is called "Rhetoric," that is, the art (and arguably science) of persuasion. Words have power, some specific words more than others. Words are used to influence and motivate; they are used to make connections between ideas and emotions. Words are, therefore, extremely important regardless of the context in which they are used: interviewing for a job, defending oneself in court, lecturing to an audience and, obviously, in political campaigns. In politics, Luntz is primarily a pollster and consultant for Republican Party interests and candidates. I submit that Luntz's work should be of vital interest to every aspiring politician. We have available now another book which I think any aspiring politician needs to read and digest. And this work complements Luntz's book very well. Dr. Drew Westen, an experienced clinical and "political" psychologist, has written "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation." For the sake of fairness and full disclosure, it should be said that Dr. Westen is a political consultant and advisor for Democratic leaders and candidates, although Westen does refer to Luntz's book on a number of occasions. Westen's book is probably the more directly partisan of the two, but that is not a major concern once one takes the party politics out of the picture and concentrates on the practical psychology that is being offered. While I think much of the advice Weston provides would enhance a political candidate's chances of being elected to office, I do have some ethical and philosophical reservations -- plus some plain old personal uneasiness -- about his recommendations. There is little controversy regarding the reality of human emotions in political discourse, particularly when it involves important issues or candidacy for public office. An outgoing personality, the capacity to project a positive image, the ability to speak well, the flair one has for making contact on an affective level with another human being, that is, the overall "charisma" of a political candidate, has been known from antiquity to be one of the most valuable assets for anyone attempting to influence public affairs or get elected to office. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew this and it was utilized by their great orators, and even a cursory examination of American political history will elicit many examples of charismatic politicians and social leaders. Weston, however, adds a new dimension to the subject about which the ancients and, until quite recently, the moderns were unaware: the physiological principles foundational to affective behavior based on recent scientific investigation into the operations of the human brain at an empirical level. Previously, the whole matter of the "ar

Top Shelf

The author presents an interesting psychological interpretation of contemporary politics in this well written, informative book. However, I think the Republican victory at the polls in 2000 and 2004 had as much to do with the new science of ballot engineering as it did with the effective use of emotional appeals. That said, Westen makes a solid case that logic alone is not enough to win the hearts and minds of the voters. In the past, the Democrats have run emotionally dry campaigns rich on facts, while the factually bereft Republicans have mastered value words and imagery to win voters' sentiments. For this reason, every campaign strategist should take this book very seriously in the near future. Aside from its relevance to the upcoming elections in 2008, the book is an important contribution to Political Science in and of itself. For Westen (along with a growing number of social science researchers) the traditional model of the marketplace as an exercise of immanently rational choices no longer stands up to scrutiny, either in economics or political science. Japan produces well-made, technically sophisticated and relatively inexpensive motorcycles that have become the choice for engineers and discerning riders on a budget. On the other hand, a reversal of this marketing logic by and large explains the success of Harley-Davidson. In a similar vein, the book describes in great detail with supporting research why people make political choices as much on the basis of a candidate's broad appeal to public emotions as his or her knowledge of the issues. For this reason, Westen will probably be mandatory reading for Political Science majors and campaign managers from both parties in the years to come.

How to Rationally and Ethically Connect with Voters Through Emotion: A Democratic Campaign Critique

Why did George Bush's message resonate better than Al Gore's and John Kerry's, even when Bush was totally wrong on the facts? The Political Brain will make that clear to you. Professor Drew Westen is a political psychologist at Emory University and draws on psychology to explain the way voters form decisions about candidates during campaigns. For those who favor the policy wonk approach that is so appealing in debates at the Kennedy School of Government on PBS, this book will be quite an unpleasant surprise. Positions on issues sway voters about 2 percent of the time. What does work? According to the research cited by Professor Westen, it's pretty simple: Voters usually ask four questions to pick a candidate to back: 1. How do I feel about the candidate's party and its principles? (The Democrats are in trouble here because their positions are usually portrayed without the context of timeless principles.) 2. How does this candidate make me feel? (How did Al Gore and John Kerry make you feel? Many people would have answered, "Bored.") 3. How do I feel about this candidate's personal characteristics, particularly his or her integrity, leadership, and compassion? (John Kerry's unwillingness to defend himself against Bush's unwarranted attacks made Kerry seem like a person with something to hide who wouldn't be a good leader.) 4. How do I feel about this candidate's stands on issues that matter to me? (Common sense answers built around every day stories work well. References to House and Senate bills don't.) If you think this point of view is oversimplified, you should read the book. The research is quite impressive in supporting these conclusions. Will any Democrat follow this advice? Probably not. Professor Westen describes how Democrats favor the same campaign advisors who always lose, rather than ones who give effective advice. Many Democrats are also afraid that they can't compete at this game with the Republicans. Others think you have to be sleazy, like some emotional campaigns are. Professor Westen shows that if we want to have a well-run company, it's unethical not to convey important information in ways that it can be understood and appreciated. The most interesting parts of the book come where Professor Westen takes on the leading issues of past campaigns (abortion, gun control, race, estate taxes, compassion, character assassination, Iraq war, and gay rights) to show the effective things done (usually by Republicans) and how someone opposed to those positions could have made a better impression than by doing what was done. I'm not convinced that each of his scripts would work, but they are certainly thought provoking. If you are a Democrat, give a copy of this book to those you know who are running for office. If you are a Republican, study how President Bush has been making mistakes since 2004 and pass along the message to those who are running. As a side note, I think Professor Westen missed several reasons

Westen gets it right

Fascinating. Westen uses findings from cutting edge brain science to reinvigorate the classic arts of political persuasion and rhetoric. The Political Brain demonstrates how all of us actually process political information, and even the most educated and informed of us are not rational decision makers, calculating the cost and benefit ratios from a candidate's list of policy proposals. But instead of lamenting some long-lost rational utopia (which never really existed), Westen explains how we all use emotions as an integral part of our decision making. The most successful political communicators have always known this: harnessing the power of emotional connections, telling stories that resonate with voters, and framing arguements in terms of values. Westen's book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how politics and elections actually work. The Political Brain will be to the 21st Century what Tony Schwartz's Responsive Chord was to the 20th Century. Will Robinson Washington, DC
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