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

( 9 )

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 a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing the evidence ...
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The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

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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 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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Editorial Reviews

Guardian
(o)ne of the most insightful books on politics and the art of persuasion in recent years.
Chris Lehmann
The Political Brain is not…a dispassionate foray into neuropsychology, but rather another in the long and ongoing series of treatises on what's wrong with Democrats and how to fix them. Westen trots out the same basic advice to address a host of issues from abortion and gay marriage to gun control and the War on Terror. Democrats, he preaches, need more genuine emotion to enliven their campaign rhetoric and extend their brand appeal to the hotly coveted voters at "the middle of the political spectrum."
—The Washington Post
The Baltimore Sun
A savvy, scary, partisan, provocative, take-no-prisoners-political primer, with cautionary tales drawn from the emotionally-challenged Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns, each of which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. His analysis of how and why political rhetoric stimulates voters' networks of association, bundles of thoughts, feelings, images, and ideas will be instructive, if also infuriating, to political junkies, no matter what their partisan affiliation.
Washington Post Book World
In the thick of another overheated election cycle, it would seem the time is ripe for an exploration of how political enthusiasms play out on the neural paths of the brain. Drew Westen, the psychologist and author of The Political Brain, supplied an important study.
Huffington Post
A brilliant new book . . . Let's make sure that all Capitol Hill cavemen read [it], and take it to heart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641966095
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/5/2008
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents


Introduction     ix
Mind, Brain, and Emotion in Politics
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
Trickle-up Politics     117
A Blueprint for Emotionally Compelling Campaigns
Writing an Emotional Constitution     145
Aborting Ambivalence     171
Gunning for Common Ground     193
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
Index     427
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    Extremely Biased

    This book is extremely biased and is difficult to believe. The author completely ignores economics and simply attacks anything that is not to the far left. As a scientist and a centrist, I was extremely disappointed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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