Friday, April 18, 2008

Manipulation of the Right Brain

Hillary Clinton is a sharp, analytical woman. She's shrewd, calculating, objective, dispassionate and focused... all the reasons why she's going to lose the nomination.

People don't vote analytically; they vote emotionally. That's not what they say but it's what they do says author and psychologist Drew Westen. Another psychological principle kicks in to cover the dichotomy: rationalization: the need to invent plausible reasons for why you've decided as you have.

So people say they "figured it all out" and decided on Obama instead of Hillary but that's not what's really happened. That's the rationalization. Instead, people respond to Obama's use of emotive methods of communication and his focus on altruism and hope. They know he hasn't described his plans for the future; they don't care. They're paying attention because they're emotionally involved and prefer that connection to the facts.

It's right brain versus left (from the work of psychologist/zoologist Roger Sperry).

Hillary is going to lose because her presentations are left-brain focused; Obama is going to win because his subject matter appeals to the emotions of his listeners as right-brain material.

Republicans also use emotive methods of communication but much is predicated on capitalizing on fear and then refocusing that fear into areas favoring Republican issues and candidates. Karl Rove is a master at fear provocation and manipulating the results with the careful use of catchy one-liners (sound bites). Thankfully, neither Hillary nor Obama have used fear in this way.

People are being hit from every side these days: health care costs, aging, higher prices for food and fuel, sinking home equity, shrinking (or at least tightening) credit, the "war" and fear of more wars (Iran, another massive terrorist event), more disasters (climate change, rising oceanfronts, melting ice), more economic woes (bankruptcies, foreclosures, inflation, an inability of the government to continue Social Security and Medicare benefits, etc.), and, for those of us that can travel, the extraordinarily high cost of everything because of the sinking dollar. These issues will become even more volatile as the election nears for two reasons: they're real and happening, and people pay more attention as the election (a perceived time of change) gets closer.

Howard Dean suggests that every Democratic candidate should read Westen's book. But it doesn't just work that way -- you have to have the personality to go with it. A calculating person such as Hillary has her place in the world; but a more appealing personality that speaks to everyday issues and insights emotions just below the surface will win every time.