I have made a career out of dissecting and analyzing political ideals and visions, and it has always caught my attention to try to understand how our brains adapt to certain ideas or how we can be convinced of the projects of a certain leader. According to recent studies based on neurolinguistics, linguistics, and genetics, our political decision-making process is more irrational than previously believed.
It was through science that I learned about this peculiar path people walk from the moment they see a candidate until they decide to cast their vote favoring such candidate. Based on this, I took the task of itemizing some cases that can shed light and teachings we can use when putting together our communicational strategies:
- “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”:
It is a quote from English writer Rudyard Kipling, who in a single quote summed up the oldest but more effective method when it comes to communicating with others. That’s why I always stress the power that storytelling has over people because the human brain is pre-wired to both produce and share this stories with others. By way of storytelling, we can shift the fact to fit the story’s punch line, as it is happening with the flood of stories heard inside multiple election campaigns nowadays, as it is believed by an astounding 78% of Marketing Directors, who point out this to be the future trend of this science.
- There’s a story for each listener:
Metaphors have the power to connect with individuals, thus making them relatable but where do they come from? Metaphors find their origins in the nuclear family, as pointed out by American Linguist George Lakoff, there are two types of families: the Conservative hard-line authoritarian and iron-fisted disciplinary family on one hand, and the family based on more liberal and protective justice-seeking set of values on the other hand, or as commonly known, the Progressive Family.
- “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason but by the heart.”:
French Philosopher Blaise Pascal nailed it with this statement. In the year 2004, a research performed at the Emory University conducted MRI’s on a group of Democrats and Republicans that had previously seen political speeches by George Bush and John Kerry during their presidential runs. The leading authority of this study, Dr. Drew Western concluded that the choice of either Party or Candidate comes from the tuning existing between the voter and the narratives and emotions tied to the candidate, or the party itself.
On an actual context, we can see Donald Trump’s rise, Bernie Sanders’ challenging eruption or Frank Underwood’s fame in Netflix’s House of Cards as a result of an appealing and ultimately successful storytelling, so the key learning here is that focus has to be fixed on emotions and on the story being told.
- “An image is worth a thousand words”:
What makes us like a certain Politician? According to a 2013 study by the Berstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, our attraction leans towards a political figure, mainly due to our neurological response to their physical features. Squared-jaw faces and thick eyebrows, depending on age and place, can make someone perceived as untrustworthy, for example.
Articles published in “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience” tell us about how, when we look at someone’s face for a few seconds, our brains attach a positive or negative label to this person, even before the person has even spoken. So, is physical appearance important during political campaigns? Yes, although is not written on the wall, we all know our brain does this connection in an automatic way. The same happens with body language; politicians must go the extra mile to avoid being obnoxious or making gestures that’ll make them lose credibility.
All these studies and theories don’t necessarily mean that the smoking gun can be found on the hands of genetics only, but it does show that we sway to political positions in the same fashion as it occurs with other human conditions like obesity or addictions.
The wisdom to extract from all this is that we must have a thorough look at the human being, fine-tune our approach, and be convincing so we can activate their interest on us.