Magazine article Psychology Today

You Don't Know Jack (or Jeb, or Hillary)

Magazine article Psychology Today

You Don't Know Jack (or Jeb, or Hillary)

Article excerpt

PIN YOUR HOPES on a charismatic leader and it's not easy to change your mind: We don't like to admit that our faith was misplaced. In PotiticalAnimals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics, writer and historian RICK SHENKMAN argues that because we evolved in intimate groups, we're woefully underequipped to appraise faraway personalities-or re-evaluate politicians who turn out not to be the people we thought they were. -Matt Huston

Our trust in political Isadora Ib often misplaced. Why?

We are all under the impression that when we see somebody on television, we can makea snapjudgment th eway we do when we meet in person. But the human brain isn't designed to evaluate someone unless you can take in body language and eye movement. You're not living in a small community, standing in front of a person you've gotten to know over years or decades. Yet we blithely go on thinking that we really understand these guys because we caught them in a presidential debate ora commercial.

Reagan's staff, you note, thought the right visuals could overpower unflattering commentary.

This is something that drug companies have picked up on. Every night, the evening news cuts away to a drug commercial. The last third of each ad is the FCCmandated warning about what thisdrug can do to you,but they run pretty pictures over those horrible side effects. If you're actually listening, you're practically on the floor crying.

How has imagery Bhaped our impression. …

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