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


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

ISBN13: 9781586484255
ISBN10: 1586484257
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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…


"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 in partisanship when he (with colleagues Stephan Hamann and Clint Kilts) examined the neural patterns of hardcore supporters of George... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)


This groundbreaking investigation by a renowned psychologist and neuroscientist proves it: We vote with our hearts, not our minds

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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virginia_jarvis, December 20, 2007 (view all comments by virginia_jarvis)
As a crippled child who learned to play chess with Dad when I was 8 years old and read his Sci-Fi novels instead of comic books it took me a long time to understand my fellow human beings, that most of us operate not from logic but from emotion. Yet once I discovered this my own life became richer and varied and more tolerant of others. I also started having more friends, where true wealth is.
For this reason most of all I do reccomend this book.
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Product Details

The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
Westen, Drew
Cognitive Psychology
Political Process - Elections
Civics & Citizenship
Political parties -- United States.
United States Politics and government.
General Political Science
Politics - General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
9.25 x 6.13 in 25.4 oz

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Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Mood Disorders and Depression
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics

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This groundbreaking investigation by a renowned psychologist and neuroscientist proves it: We vote with our hearts, not our minds
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