sábado, 20 de setembro de 2008


The Political Brain

By Geoffrey K. Aguirre, M.D., Ph.D.About Geoffrey K. Aguirre, M.D., Ph.D.
September 12, 2008

Research using neuroimaging to detect the emotional response of undecided voters has led to controversy among scientists. An op-ed article in the New York Times, written by the leader of one such study, argued that brain scans could help determine the voters' true feelings about candidates, eventually making pollsters obsolete. Dr. Geoffrey Aguirre discusses the flaws of Iacoboni’s argument, the feasibility of this method to determine hidden preferences and the ethical issues inherent in the process.
By November 11, 2007, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating contests were well under way. The Democratic candidates spoke that night at the Jefferson-Jackson fund-raising dinner in Iowa, and a second debate was approaching for the Republicans. With the first votes of the caucuses and primaries only weeks away, pollsters and pundits were working to divine the intentions of voters, particularly the coveted “swing” voters not committed to a candidate. Which Republican would appeal to women, closing the so-called “gender gap”? Was anyone truly undecided regarding Mrs. Clinton, a candidate who had been in the political spotlight for more than 15 years?
That Sunday, the op-ed page of the New York Times promised insight into these central questions, in the surprising form of pictures of brain activity.
Neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Marco Iacoboni, had used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the responses of undecided voters to the candidates.
were startling in their depth and breadth. One Republican candidate, Fred Thompson, was found to evoke particularly strong feelings of empathy. Further, while some voters said that they disapproved of Hillary Clinton, their brain activity revealed that they had unacknowledged impulses to like her. The study had seemingly reached into the minds of voters and plucked out their hidden emotions and conflicts. Perhaps political talk-show hosts and Gallup pollsters would soon be unnecessary. Why analyze and poll when the feelings and intentions of voters could be read directly from their brains?

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