Meredith Psychology Students Examine the 2012 Election
After a seemingly endless campaign, Election Day 2012 has arrived. Meredith Professor of Psychology Cynthia Edwards asked students in her social psychology course to offer psychological explanations as to why this election cycle has been so divisive.
Here are some of their theories.
Caught in the middle
When their minds holding two ideas simultaneously that are inconsistent with one another, they will be quick to discredit the source that seems most contradictory to their belief.
Voters then justify their choice with information that presents their choice as correct, and discount evidence that would suggest otherwise. Social psychologists refer to this phenomenon as confirmation bias.
Mirroring the candidates
Partisan viewers of the debate tend to agree with their candidate. If the candidate is being aggressive to the opposition, viewers learn it is acceptable to also be aggressive to the opposition and behave in a similar fashion.
Appeal to emotions
When a person feels they are emotionally attached to one of the candidates, they can act emotionally to someone who might put down their candidate, or disagree with them. In some instances, even becoming irritable because an attack on a candidate is perceived as also an attack on them personally.