Lowering Voting Age to Six

I just ran across this study in Scientific American, May 5th, 2009 entitled “The Look of a Winner”. The study had Swiss children aged 5 to 13 playing a game based on Odysseus’ voyage from Troy back to Ithaca. At the end of the game they were asked to pick their captain to lead them from two images. Unbeknownst to the children they were two rival candidates from the French parliamentary elections. The researchers found that the Swiss children’s choice of captain, based solely on the pictures, was the person more likely to win the French election. Further, five year old judgements were about as good as adults.

The article notes that appearing like a leader is appearing competent, not attractive. Other researchers have found, “That candidate appearances have the strongest impact on voters who possess little political knowledge and spend a lot of time in front of their television screens.”

My knee jerk scientific reaction is more studies are needed but those that have been done are pointing to a consistent conclusion: large numbers of people base their candidate choice consistently with facial appearance. If these results continue to hold up I have a few thoughts:

  • Is just seeing a face good enough? In other words it’s possible that after thousands of millenia of evolving, and the importance of picking good leaders to surviving, maybe we can identify competent leaders by just looking. Though it seems to me that what might have worked in the past, like craving sweets and fats, may not work so well in this obese, nuclear armed, inside the beginning of Earth’s sixth major extinction event, new Anthropocene geological epoch.
  • We think that thinking is important to picking a leader, and that thinking works better in adults. But if 5 year olds have the same competence (or some might say lack of it) as adults in picking their leaders, perhaps we should just drop the voting age to say 6 (just to be conservative)? Imagine how great it could be. We could require voting in school, maybe homeroom for middle and high schoolers, and right after the Pledge of Allegence for grade schoolers. The voter turnout would be very high so presidential candidates would have to come to schools and promise better cafeteria meals with this voter block. I can see it now!
  • Or perhaps instead of voter ID laws eliminating voters we should eliminate heavy TV viewers from the voter rolls.
  • This confirms my reasons for not usually watching the candidates. I strongly prefer to be a data driven voter, looking at what they do first in statistics and policy studies. So I’ve preferred not watching debates, speeches, etc, but instead the analysis of those, or simply read the text. Otherwise it seems they’re judge pulling my emotional triggers. Further evidence of this is the Kennedy Nixon debates where the radio audience gave the node to Nixon while TV views thought Kennedy did a better job (click here for a discussion of that). Of course once I’m sure of the rational basis then I can have fun being emotionally tweaked, so I delighted in watching Clinton’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech that entwines good facts, reasoning, and strong emotional value appeal.

Check out another post I have on this topic by clicking here.

Liberal vs Conservative Brains

In college I began to ponder the oddities of political identification. It made no sense to me. It was like people had a paper bag, labeled it “Conservative/Republican” or “Liberal/Democrat”, and threw items in it with little concern if they made much sense together.

This was clearest to me with the Conservative bag where there was “Pro-Life” (and thus anti-Planned Parenthood, more on that in a moment), pro death penalty, and large war budgets. Now clearly in my mind, the basic principle, the prime motivator, of this set of issues was not supporting and nurturing life. Something else had to be going on despite the words being uttered.

And what goes into the bag and out can change too. A recent NPR Fresh Air podcast Continue reading

Clinton Was Right: Dems 41 Million Jobs, Reps 21 Million Jobs

I love the phrases “Flying by instruments,” or “Data Driven”. Without a doubt it reflects my distrust of my own biases and prejudices, so I lean heavily to the analytical, to what can be tested and proven. The scientific method is just part of me.

So it’s no surprise that I thought one of the most interesting things to come out of the Democratic National Convention was Bill Clinton’s heavy in the policy and statistics speech. And what followed in the press was that Bill Clinton Was Right, according to US News and World Report, not known to be a bastion of the East Coast Media Elite.

In particular US News & World Report analyzed economic outcomes based on the party of the president. Since 1961 Democrats added 41 million jobs (Clinton rounded up to 42) while Republicans added about half as many at 21 million jobs. Now this was from the start to the end of each administration but that hardly seems fair. Surely some time is needed to change the jobs outcome. So the writer skewed to numbers to one year after the start of an administration to one year after it ended. In other words give an administration a year to let things kick in. Result: Dems 38 million, GOP 27 million.

This was only private sector jobs, which seems to me the Republicans would agree are the really good ones, or as I’ve heard argued, government can’t create jobs. But the writer checked total jobs, including government, again giving one year for administration policies to kick in and once again: Dems 44 million, GOP 34 million.

Another very interesting review, again not from the East Coast Media Elite (correct me if I’m wrong as I think use of this phrase is whining on the parts of conservatives so I’m not sure of the scorecard as to who is or isn’t in the “Elite”), is from Fox News in their story History Shows Stocks, GDP Outperform Under Democrats we learn that GDP (gross domestic profit), stock prices, and corporate profits are better under Democrats.

McGraw-Hill’s S&P Capital IQ analysis shows: Continue reading

Take A Test of Political (and other) Biases

It’s much easy for our brains to process things that are congruent, that is when things make sense because they’re related to each other.

For example say the following words:

RED
BLUE
PURPLE
BROWN
YELLOW
GREEN
GRAY
ORANGE

Now try this but do NOT read the word, instead say the color of the word:

RED
BLUE
PURPLE
BROWN
YELLOW
GREEN
GRAY
ORANGE

Didn’t that take longer? This effect is called the Stroop Effect. Most of us have been trained and ingrained that reading something has priority over other ways of getting facts. So we have difficulty with this task since it doesn’t make sense to our brain to ignore the word in favor of the color of the word. This in turn leads to longer time to answer the implicit question of what’s the color. The time difference to process what makes sense to us verses what doesn’t allows us to test for biases. Continue reading

Ann Barnhardt:This Person Doesn’t Look Like A President!

Sign on I-70 just outside Ft Riley.

Sign on I-70 just outside Ft Riley.

Going to and from Denver on I-70 we see this sign (going eastbound)  just outside to Ft Riley. I find this a likely example of Republican cognition. It also seems to be put up by a person who doesn’t understand what Marxism is or who wants to throw a scary term around for her own reasons. It was so interesting I had to take the exit and take a picture.

Republican Cognition

Sign on I-70 just outside Ft Riley.

Sign on I-70 just outside Ft Riley.

It has long interested me how people choose their political party or group. It has never made much sense to me. For instance, it’s likely the same person who identifies themselves as pro-life would also be more likely to identify themselves as supporting the death penalty, certainly an anti-life policy. How is this possible?

It seemed there was little that tied the person’s political platform together in a logical way. Forget the cerebral cortex; it seemed to be based on deeper brain function. It might be like color blindness I reasoned. Hardly perceptible to the person with it, or those observing that person. Yet fundamentally framing their world and what they believe about it.

We are now entering a brave new world where we can begin to understand this as a science. For instance, recent studies show that Republican Voters Know GOP Candidates When They See Them (original article here). What the researchers found was that Republican voters were more influenced by facial stereotypes than Democratic voters. The research didn’t identify what it was that people keyed off of, except women and ethnic minorities were viewed as less likely to be Democrats.

UPDATE 6 Sep 2012: Check out my blog post Ann Barnhardt:This Person Doesn’t Look Like A President! for an example of this.