Friday, August 31, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance and Campaign 2012

Ok, so the new theory the Romney folks are now trying to implement is based on cognitive dissonance. 

What is cognitive dissonance you may be asking yourself?  And why does it matter?

Cognitive dissonance relates to decision-making.  Especially to making difficult decisions.  Where a person may go back and forth.

Cognitive dissonance is also related to how a person feels when they've chosen a given product or path.  A car.  A journey.  A marriage.  And, it's now being assumed, a vote for president.

When cognitive dissonance is operating, it means that despite many problems, once a person has chosen a given path, they tend to stay on it.  Despite difficulties.  And that efforts to dissuade them otherwise actually work in reverse.  So, if you're climbing Mt. Everest, and you've invested tons of money and effort into that project, you may persevere in your climb even when prudence suggests you turn around and wisely go back to base camp.

The Romney camp is assuming that because the economy is so bad, they can convince voters to give up on Obama and ...  well that's the other side of the problem.  Because there has to be a choice which is so convincing that it's worth giving up what you've already got.

Even in an abusive marriage, it is extremely difficult for an abused spouse to give up hopes and dreams for the person who still manages - even if only from time to time - to be a positive partner.

The Romney camp is assuming that Obama is like a Lemon vehicle or an abusive spouse.  Which he's not - even if over and over they have tried to portray him that way.

So who's the villain in this story the republicans are spinning?

The Romney camp wants to portray Obama as the villain.  But that's a false premise.  The economy is one villain.  And actually, the republican effort to harry, humiliate and defeat Obama - rather than cooperate for the good of the country - is another.

The decision people have to make?  The few remaining persuadable voters are those trying to figure out who they actually trust.  A mendacious Mitt is not trustworthy.  Even republicans, who are committed to voting for him, will do so just as they'd swallow a bitter medicine.  That's where cognitive dissonance operates for them:  Die hard partisans will stick with the republican candidate no matter how difficult the slog or how wooden the leader.  Except for those republicans who see Mitt as really bad news for the country.  (And I suspect there are some, even some republican pundits, who are coming to that conclusion.)

But your average voter?  If they voted for Obama and they recognize that it's the economy they are up against - not Obama - then Obama's sunny smile, engaging chuckle, optimistic outlook, and honesty about what we're up against is likely to save the day.  They're highly likely to stick with the present course, the known quantity.  And the cheerful leader.

Here's an example:  If you're on a forced march - as we are in this economy - most of us recognize that Obama is not forcing the march.  And we recognize how hard republicans have worked to worsen the march.  They've been miserable companions.  They've sniped and told lies.  They've spent hardly any time encouraging or cooperating.  They simply haven't made the case that letting them lead would be anything but bitter medicine.

There's a lot of research on how students react to professors.  And guess what?  After just a few minutes, even less than a minute, they're able to assess whether they like someone.  And their emotional reactions, first impressions, are highly indicative of how they will grade the professor's performance at the end of the semester.

People have had a long time to get to know Obama - as a cheerful and predictable individual.  Yes, some are prejudiced against him.  (And I do mean prejudiced.)  But those who are connected now... are highly unlikely to give up on that positive connection for a shifty person who, everyone admits, just can't make the sale of himself.  Especially when first impressions are so powerful.  And Mitt has had many, many years of being the same smarmy weasel - a guy who can't connect but is so desperate to please that he has no inner core but deception.

Cognitive dissonance?  My predictions:  First, those connected to Obama will stay connected.  And efforts of the Romney campaign to change that will backfire.  (Cognitive dissonance will work against that type of pressure.   Plus, efforts to play on voters' supposed guilt will really work against them, for it's a putdown...)  Finally, first impressions of Mitt as a woefully poor candidate, as someone who simply can't connect, will endure.  And possibly strengthen...  as a choice between a known, upbeat personality versus a carping, shifty, bullying, wooden guy becomes clearer and clearer.

If we, as a nation, have to keep slogging up what seems an almost impossible climb...  most of us will choose the sunny leader.  And not the guy who'd put a dog into a cage on a forced drive.

Cognitive Dissonance.  I predict it's gonna work in Obama's favor!  And against Mitt. 

Example:  Only 20 million tuned in for Mitt's speech?  I'd say cognitive dissonance had a say in how many tuned out!

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