Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Neuropolitics - reading the electorate's mind.

Members of our two major political parties increasingly seem to inhabit alternative realities that are utterly incomprehending of each other. How about reinforcing these bubbles with technology for feeding blocks of voters only what they want to hear? A NYTimes piece by Kevin Randall describes some really spooky new political tools: digital campaign signs that note the facial and emotional reactions of those watching their message and tally emotional reactions like happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, fear and sadness. This permits alteration of the message to elicit desired responses. Such devices have been used in Mexico, Poland, Turkey, and probably the U.S.
In Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign and his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, employed tools to measure voters’ brain waves, skin arousal, heart rates and facial expressions during the 2012 presidential campaign. More recently, the party has been using facial coding to help pick its best candidates, one consultant says. Some officials even speak openly about their embrace of neuropolitical techniques, and not just for campaigning, but for governing as well.
Neuromarketing consultants say they are conducting research like this in more than a dozen countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Russia, Spain and, to a much lesser extent, the United States.
One neuromarketing firm says it has worked for a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign committee to help it improve its targeting and messages.
David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, said the tools “would be new ground for political campaigns...The richness of this data compared to what is gathered today in testing ads or evaluating speeches and debates, which is the trusty old dial test and primitive qualitative methods, is hard to comprehend. It gets more to emotion, intensity and a more complex understanding of how people are reacting.”
Added note: Mexico's governing party, the PRI, has now said it will no longer employ the techniques described above.

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