Voter Blindness

Close your eyes for a moment and think about who you’re voting for in the general election.

Done that?

Bet you any money you like, you aren’t thinking of a colour, or a logo, or a policy. You’re seeing the face of the person you’re voting for.

Don’t worry, you aren’t going mad. You’re just experiencing a cognitive bias. For those of you who have read ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by the truly amazing Daniel Kahneman you will have probably read the chapter where he discusses research carried out by an academic called Alex Todorov.

For those of you who haven’t read the book or aren’t familiar with the research, Todorov conducted research on basic assessment (NB the section I’m referring starts on page 90). This looked at how quickly you assess someone and the metrics you use to do so (NB Malcolm Gladwell calls this ‘Thin Slicing’ something I find fascinating). He showed his students photos of mens faces, often in 1/10th of a second. He then asked them to assess them on things including likability and competence.

The faces that Todorov showed his students were political candidates. He took the metrics that were measured and then assessed them against the outcome of the elections. 70% of the successful candidates had scored higher values for competency.

Interesting isn’t it? (well I think so).

So what does this mean for the election campaigning? Well, forget party politics. You’re actually voting for the person at the top of the food chain. Your decision was made the minute you saw their faces.

In a lot of respects, voting reform will never make any difference unless we address the cognitive biases that we all have. This is probably why referendums have better turn out and better results. We aren’t voting for a ‘face’ we’re voting for a belief and it’s harder to base that on competence.

Instead of having pointless debates where the winner is someone who’s having a good night, why not have a complete media blackout? Think about it for a minute. When we go to buy utilities we base our decision, not on who runs the company, but *how well* they run that company. What is their service like? If you don’t like it then you’re unlikely to go for it are you?

I’m honestly bored of seeing people posting biased articles that stack up in favour of their favoured party. I’m also bored of political parties that get into power and really screw with the country and the services. Perhaps if we treated politics like a PLC, and we’re all shareholders then we’d be voting based upon policy and service rather than what the mouthpiece looks like?

It doesn’t matter which party gets into power (OK, it does, lets hope UKIP self destruct before May), because they’ll end up getting us into debt, selling services and not supporting the entire population. A new party will get into power and start walking around telling people how to make a wheel, that’s completely different than it was before. Instead of fixing problems, they will create new ones.

Oh… and yes, I know who I’m voting for. It’s not Labour and it’s not UKIP. Hell would have to freeze over before I voted for either.