Friday, August 15, 2008
I just finished reading "The Political Mind: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation" by Dr. Drew Westen (PublicAffairs 2007) (easily available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and others) which reports on new research from the fields of neuroscience and psychology about the way in which people make decisions and, by implication, how one can more effectively persuade decision-makers (in this case, voters). While the book discusses this new research in the context of political elections, it should be of interest to any legal writing professor or practitioner interested in better understanding the science of decision-making. Essentially, the author posits that people make decisions based on their "gut" emotional reactions to the arguments and then use "reason" to rationalize those decisions.
Similarly, the August 15, 2008 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education includes an article entitled "A New Direction in Psychology and Politics," available here, which notes that one should think of the relationship between emotion and reason in decision-making as: "though [the mind] were a small boy riding a large elephant. If the boy wants to go to the left, and the elephant is willing to cooperate, it may go to the left. But if the elephant wants to go to the right, it will go to the right. And afterward the boy will think of a reason why he wanted to go right. In other words, we act, then we rationalize. "Reason is the press secretary of the emotions," Haidt says. "We see things, we react to them, and afterward we make up reasons to explain ourselves. But the psychology of the judgment is intuitive."
Interesting stuff, eh?
I am the scholarship dude.