Voters with amnesia

A study recently published in the American Journal of Political Science found that patients suffering from profound amnesia can still make pretty good voting decisions. That is, even though the patients couldn't remember who the candidates were, or what their positions on issues were, they still somehow picked out the ones whose political views were similar to their own. From the abstract:

We report here that amnesic patients, despite not being able to remember any issue information, consistently voted for candidates with favored political positions. Thus, sound voting decisions do not require recall or recognition of previously learned associations between candidates and their issue positions. This result supports a multiple memory systems model of political decision making.

I'm not sure whether these results have any relevance to the American electorate. After all, the amnesic patients once knew the candidates' positions, but forgot them. But what about voters who don't know the positions and issues to begin with?

More info — Voting without Remembering: Insights from Patients with Amnesia
     Posted By: Alex - Sun Jul 29, 2012
     Category: Politics | Psychology

Party politics isn't just about issues -- in fact, it's very little about issues these days, or else people would take the trouble to make sure they have their facts right. The issues are only a litmus test; their degree of truthfulness or relevance to reality, is largely irrelevant.

It's about identity. Sam votes for other members of his tribe. Besides their having correct views, you can identify a fellow party member by dress, style of speech, and by how and how much they talk about God, among other things. And, in some cases, by race or sex. Even someone who can't remember facts, can recognize a kindred spirit.

Even for people who consider issues, how they come down on the issues reflects more about their personality than objective reasoning. When there's a new issue they haven't heard about before (as would be the case for all issues with amnesia patients), the line of reasoning, the type of facts selected for consideration, resonate with someone based on their levels of compassion, pragmatism, ease of being disgusted, and so on -- the factors that led them to identify with that political position in the first place. You don't have to remember anything to recognize a "good" argument -- it's based on who you are.
Posted by Tyler Tork on 07/29/12 at 10:48 AM
I was going to make a joke but Tyler had to go and get all serious and give a well reasoned answer, darn it. 😠 😉
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 07/29/12 at 11:21 AM
33% of American voters know their position, in the welfare line!
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/29/12 at 12:50 PM
95% of american can't even place the country Bhutan on the map
Posted by Fluffy Bunny Slippers on 07/29/12 at 03:27 PM
That would explain a lot of Obama voters.
Posted by PVinWV on 07/29/12 at 06:18 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.