Monday, September 14, 2015

A maggot wormed its way into your ear and is eating your brain

You should have a big "yuk" response to my headline. That emotional response is how Donald Trump is playing many people like puppets.

Following are teaser snippets from a salon.com article (h/t alternet.org) on the neuroscience and psychology underlying Trump's appeal to the GOP masses. If you've been tracking this blog then you've read about it before. But this article focuses that science on Trump specifically. It's a good easy read.

... here is the dirty little secret: Trump, as an expert entertainer and performer, knows what viewers want and he gives it to us. We should blame ourselves, and specifically the emotional part of our brains, for Trump’s rise. This emotional part of our brain can lead us to make systematic and costly bad decisions that we would be wise to avoid.

Trump knows how to play to the way our brains are wired through provocative, emotion-inducing statements. As a result, his statements are very well tuned to trigger our autopilot system, and get our attention. For instance, he accused undocumented migrants of bringing drugs and rape to the United States. These statements were not based on facts, but were well-designed to appeal to emotions, namely the kind of fears that lead to a fight-or-flight response. In another well-known incident, Trump publicized Lindsey Graham’s personal cell phone number. This appealed to our emotional brain’s curiosity and surprise.

So how do you protect yourself against emotional appeals like those used by Trump?

For example, every time you read an article about an airplane crash, you might have a twinge in your gut, which is a sign of an emotional response. You might be tempted to avoid flying for your next trip when you can either fly or drive. So then turn to the numbers. For example, for a 400-mile trip for two people, the risk of dying is nearly 8 to 9 times more likely for a car trip. You will be much less likely to die if you do not follow your emotional brain’s pull into attentional bias!

Did you feel a bit of a twinge when you read the last sentence? Yes, it was overly dramatic and specifically meant to illustrate the strength of our emotional system’s pull. That sentence illustrates how people like Trump who know how our brains are wired can take advantage of our feeling and thinking patterns for their own purposes.

In the meantime think of The Donald as the maggot eating your brain ... or trying to slither into your ear.

And read the salon.com article.

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