Tag Archives: Gordon Brown

Mind reading gone awry

There are times when individuals are well synchronized with each other that they can finish each other’s sentences. These interactions seem almost magical in that people understand how each other feels about a topic or event. There are instances however when it is difficult to understand where the miscommunication occurred. How a simple exchange of words could go so wrong is anyone’s guess, but the fact that the individuals made up their mind about the event or another individual can be strikingly clear.

Take the example that the media popularized between an English politician and a political constituent. After a few words relating to political concerns were exchanged, the politician went on his way. Upon entering the vehicle, presumably a safe place to express his personal opinion with a microphone still on, the politician uttered how he perceived his constituent (refer to May 1st post).

One can only imagine how the politician made his conclusion about the interaction. Epley (2008) suggests that misinterpretations are likely to occur when individuals are under high cognitive load, where schemas seem to be the default interpretation of events. Further, Eyal and Epley (2010) suggests that when two strangers interact they seem to focus on different parts of the context (i.e. self or other). In the context of the political concern the constituent focused on the perceived problem, while the politician focused on his constituent. A solution to misunderstandings is to take part in perspective taking and to take more time to reduce the likelihood of biased interpretation (Epley, 2008).

Eyal & Epley (2010). How to Seem Telepathic – Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal.

Epley, N. (2008). Solving the (real) other minds problem.

“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

See more: Brown overheard calling voter ‘bigoted’

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“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

After being caught calling one of his own Labour supporters a bigot when he thought he was off microphone, Gordon Brown has been apologizing and recanting his statement at every opportunity. His reference to Gillian Duffy as “a sort of bigoted woman” came after her comments about Eastern European immigration, something many in Britain feel is a growing problem. Of course, the news has focused on the aftermath of Brown’s gaffe and his attempts to apologize to Duffy. Meanwhile, Duffy seemed completely shocked that anything she said would have implied she was prejudiced. What the news has not focused on is whether or not she really is a bigot. Few people would agree they were in fact a bigot, despite their prejudicial views, because nobody ever thinks they are one.

Past research (using implicit measures and physiological responses) has shown that most people are prejudiced to some extent. But, most people, even those with extreme prejudices, deny such attitudes. According to recent research highlighted in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this may be because exposure to representations of prejudice in culture promotes the self-belief that individuals are not prejudiced. In a series of experiments, the authors exposed American participants to bigot stereotypes (through either priming or more explicit media representations) and found that those participants exposed rated themselves as less prejudiced than those who were not exposed beforehand. The authors suggest that this is due to cues of prejudice providing targets for downward social comparison. So, if exposure to bigot cues can lead people to believe they are less bigoted, then perhaps all the campaign focus on anti-immigration and the recent surge in support for racist parties like the BNP will lead other British people to think they are less bigoted than they actually are.

Read more: But I’m No Bigot: How Prejudiced White Americans Maintain Unprejudiced Self-Image

Read more: The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism


Gordon Brown– hot or not? Physical appearance and election outcomes

As David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and other candidates prepare for the UK general elections, voters must decide whom to support. Although political ideology is (hopefully) a major influence on voting habits, a number of other factors about the candidates may sway voters as well. For example, many election observers have noted the seeming link between candidate height and election outcome– with taller candidates winning more. The BBC recently reported on how lately UK candidates have been emphasizing their exercise routine and physical fitness to the public; perhaps hoping that physical fitness translates into a perception of leadership fitness for voters. Or, candidates may be hoping to boost their perceived attractiveness (since perceived attractiveness has been linked the perception of other positive trait attributes) by spending a few extra hours in the gym.

Much research on first impressions has reiterated the importance of physical features in influencing judgments about a number of traits, including competence– which is strongly linked to voter support. Research altering the images of famous US presidents showed that subtle changes to their faces could greatly change perceptions of them.  Recent research in Political Psychology tried to examine more specifically the ways that first impressions (non-verbal at least) might influence social judgments other than competence and how those judgments may influence actual election outcomes. Just as previous research has suggested, judgments of competence were highly positively correlated with winning in a real election. However, somewhat surprisingly, when paired with judgments of incompetence, judgments of physical attraction were actually correlated with a lesser chance of winning an election than judgement of incompetence alone. In other words, if a first impression of incompetence is made, being seen as physically attractive actually makes your chance of winning even worse. So, according to this research if candidates are hoping to boost their physical appeal in order to sway voters, maybe they ought to make sure they are being seen as relatively competent first.

Read More:

Mattes et al. (2010). Predicting Election Outcomes from Positive and Negative Trait Assessments of Candidate Images, Political Psychology, 31, 1.

BBC– The election fitness trail – exercising power or PR?

Keating et al. (2002). Presidential Physiognomies: Altered Images, Altered Perceptions. Political Psychology, 20, 3.

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