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The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation | [Drew Westen]

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. In this landmark book, scientist and psychologist Drew Westen shows how electorates vote not with their heads but with their hearts, and how the marketplace that matters most is the marketplace of emotion - filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory.
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Publisher's Summary

The Political Brain is a groundbreaking scientific investigation into how the mind and brain really work and how it affects the way candidates win and lose elections.

In politics, when reason and emotions collide, emotion invariably wins. In this landmark book, scientist and psychologist Drew Westen shows how electorates vote not with their heads but with their hearts, and how the marketplace that matters most is the marketplace of emotion - filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory.

The first serious investigation into how emotions affect voter behavior, The Political Brain reveals how the political landscape would change if candidates began with a 21st-century understanding of how the mind and brain really work.

©2007 Drew Westen; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Drew Westen is a must read....we will win the Presidency if our candidate reads and acts on this book." (Howard Dean)
"This is the most interesting, informative book on politics I've read in many years...whether you're an interested voter or a candidate for public office, you have to read this book." (Bill Clinton)
"In the last several months, [Westen] has gone from a politically inclined nobody to a hot ticket." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Hayden Matthews, NC, USA 04-30-10
    Hayden Matthews, NC, USA 04-30-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Revealing"

    Contrary to its subtitle, The Political Brain offers scant examination of the psychology of political thought, and it is anything but objective or scientific. Nor is it, as suggested by the euphoric reviews of Bill Clinton and Howard Dean, a masterpiece of political science, the author misidentifies Minority House Leader John Boehner as a Senator. The book, nonetheless, is made worthwhile by its profound, if unintentional, insights into the workings of the U.S political system.

    Westen clearly intends his book as a strategy guide for Democratic candidates. The problem, he explains, is that Republican, while incompetent in every other respect, have masterful political strategists who understand, unlike the Democrats, that voters cannot comprehend rational appeals and must therefore be pandered to on an emotional level.

    The party of Old Hickory, Westen counsels, needs to follow the party of Lincoln in abandoning any pretense to rational, issue based campaigns. Instead, they must pander to the emotions of voters, who unlike elites such as Westen, are either too dumb or too impulsive to make informed decisions. The children's Story The Little Engine that Could, not well thought out and publicized policies, he advises, is an ideal framework for speaking to voters.

    Westen's skills as a propagandist and insights into the minds' of voters are debatable. The unintentional insights his book offers into the cynical and self-justifying world of the partisan ideologues who choreograph American political culture are not. The cynical counsel of an esteemed, albeit publicly unknown, partisan apparatchik reveals more about American politics than any textbook or criticism from even the most astute observer could. This book is a must read, though not for the reasons the author intended.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 03-04-08
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 03-04-08 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Informative yet flawed"

    This book had a few interesting tidbits, but can be summed up as “Emotions persuade more effectively than ideas. Republican politicians have used strong emotional messages while Democrats have been using Ideas.” Well, sure. When it got to making suggestions of what “liberals” could do to communicate using emotional language the book seemed to break down. I found the author misguided. One example – the author contends that on the issue of gun control liberals must point out that owning guns for protection against unjust government is equivalent to owning guns to kill police and soldiers. This argument misses the point (and would not work). History is clear that an armed population discourages unjust government, and in the very worst case, the guns of a free people should be turned against unjust police or soldiers. The author does not really explain what liberals should do, other than to be like Bill Clinton – easier said than done.

    11 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Martin Rockville, MD USA 07-01-12
    D. Martin Rockville, MD USA 07-01-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Really Bad"

    I'm shocked by the good reviews here. Probably a lot of the 1-2 starers are Conservatives angry to be called stupid. Well, let me be clear: I'm a liberal, this is a crappy book.

    The this-is-why-the-other-side-is-so-crazy genre is incredibly overpopulated. I'm not trying to draw a false equivalence. This is not Ann Coulter screaming about how liberals support medicare because their daddies wouldn't spank them, but it is basically Drew Westen's armchair psychology. A lot of it is him imagining "if only Al Gore had said this", and indulging that fantasy way too long. For the record, this book came out before the 2008 election, and Westen puts his support behind John Edwards. So we know how that turned out...

    Slightly better is the more recent book "The Republican Brain". That book at least has the advantage of being grounded somewhat in actual research. But in general, this whole genre is widely disappointing.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy Humble, TX, USA 07-02-09
    Timothy Humble, TX, USA 07-02-09
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    "Talk Radio Alternative"

    After listening through 2 hours of emotional clap-trap. I decided that if I wanted to hear an excessively verbose emotional diatribe I would tune on my radio to Michael Savage. I was very disappointed with this selection, not enough science but way too much partisan political whinning. I wasted my credit with this one. Total garbage.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda United States 06-22-12
    Linda United States 06-22-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Political Junkie Food for Thought"

    Like "What Happened to Kansas" and "Don't Think of an Elephant," this book examines why the Republican party has been so successful in its messaging and why Democrats have not. How and why people vote against their economic interest is fascinating - if you are a political junkie. Warning, although the book skewers Democrats for their ability to communicate with voters, it is written from someone with a leftist bent.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Stewart San Diego 03-31-12
    G. Stewart San Diego 03-31-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Studies show 85% of decision is emotional."
    Would you listen to The Political Brain again? Why?

    Best book to understand why facts seem to not matter in our politics. Illustrates how bad Kerry and Gore ran their campaigns. The book was written before Obama won, and we can see that Obama didn't make these mistakes and he is now president.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Political Brain?

    Liberals have to abandon their facts only approach, and bring in an all-of-the-above strategy including emotion... if not mostly emotion.

    Fishers and Hunters should be on the dems environmental side, and yet the dems don't play this to them, ceding to NRA.

    Example - put some emotion to dems pro-choice argument.
    Pro life people support making a girl carry a baby even if she was raped by her father.


    What about Anthony Heald’s performance did you like?

    Perfect.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maurice Layton, UT, USA 02-02-08
    Maurice Layton, UT, USA 02-02-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Hostage to Emotion"

    Well, someone finally tells me why "W" managed to get elected. The theory is that Republicans have been connecting emotionally with the electorate and the Democrats have been talking issues. Emotions rule. Makes sense to me. Since I listened to this book, I've been watching the primary campaigns--looking for strategies mentioned in the book. If you are interested in politics and the coming campaigns, you ought to buy this book.

    5 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael North Attleboro, MA, United States 04-04-12
    Michael North Attleboro, MA, United States 04-04-12

    Nascent researcher.

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    "Interdisciplinary Concepts and Applications"
    Would you listen to The Political Brain again? Why?

    It's not overly technical and the bulk of the material is sufficiently grounded in examples, interpretations and applications of concepts that listening to it again would be an interesting refresher.


    What other book might you compare The Political Brain to and why?

    I'd compare it to The Political Mind. Both are essentially a confluence of cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience in view of explaining and informing political thought. They both go to improving individuals literacy for what's up with regards to both politicians and the other side, whichever that may be.


    Have you listened to any of Anthony Heald’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't heard Anthony Head's other performances, but he did great. I'd comment, however, that he did pronounce Stephen Colbert's last name as Kholberg and amygdala as aw-mig-daw-la. Otherwise, he was perfectly listenable-to for the tracks' entire 16+ hour run.


    If you could give The Political Brain a new subtitle, what would it be?

    I'd give it a subtitle of,


    Any additional comments?

    The book occasionally gets a little heavy on the author's personal recommendations in such a way as to give impression that he's shooting for consultancy work, but he keep these parts grounded, practical and wholly explanatory so they're still useful.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    NuWriter Kansas USA 03-04-12
    NuWriter Kansas USA 03-04-12 Listener Since 2001
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    "Tells you why (less qualified) candidates win"
    Where does The Political Brain rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 20


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Political Brain?

    Discussing the Bush-Gore debates


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No,


    Any additional comments?

    Very good analysis of the need for candidates to connect with voters on an emotional level and what happens when they try to be

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elton Los Angeles, CA, United States 10-14-07
    Elton Los Angeles, CA, United States 10-14-07 Member Since 2004

    BA English MA Political Science Political Independent Intellectually curious Critical reader

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    "It's What You're Saying, Not How You Say It"

    This was an interesting extension of "Don't Think of an Elephant". The analysis goes a little further, beyond the power of words and into the power of images and psychological manipulation, but when rubber meets the road there is still no road-map to the future for the Democrat Party. Yes, the methods of subliminal messaging used by the right leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, but those methods would not be so effective if there were a more coherent opposition out there.
    This is a good book to listen to to be a more informed citizen, but it does very little convince you to vote for the Democrat, unless you are already inclined to.

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
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