Let the games begin!
I’m curious. Will you watch? And if so, why?
Once upon a time, I found this sort of thing boring. But these days?
I find the entire process fascinating. I’m far more aware of how politics influences my life, my community, and the not so distant future of my children. Besides – humans and their interactions are endlessly entertaining, don’t you think?
Some believe the debates will have little impact, but you never know.
Presidential Debates – Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?
With an amusing reference to Richard Nixon’s “flop sweat,” The Daily Beast asserts “Presidential Debates Rarely Have Much Effect on Election Outcomes.”
Writer Miranda Green explains that debates are “full of memorable moments” – and I might add, great fodder for Saturday Night Live, but calling upon a 2008 Gallop study, she explains:
… the most common outcome of the presidential debates is a slight popularity bump. But that bump doesn’t necessarily translate into votes.
I was also intrigued by a brief article on Psypost, which reveals that we register distaste for political figures physiologically. In other words, when it comes to staying open-minded to the candidate we don’t like, we fail.
Simply put, we don’t pay attention. At least, one study at the end of the 2008 presidential race offers data that reflect our interest or disinterest, as measured by heart rate and other factors.
Tuning In and Tuning Out
Are we surprised? Isn’t this consistent with drifting off into daydreaming during the meeting that drags on too long, or tuning out the neighbor who constantly complains? Don’t our feelings and impressions always register in our bodies – if not on our bodies?
According to Psypost, the study monitored
heart rates, skin conductance and activation of facial muscles.
… partisan participants reacted strongly to ads featuring their favored candidate, but barely responded to ads featuring the rival candidate. In comparison, people who didn’t favor one candidate over the other showed similar physiological response patterns and intensity to ads for both…
Increasing Attention Span
If we can train ourselves to be more focused and attentive in professional situations – and there seem to be tricks and techniques for that – could we also increase our ability to pay attention when someone is saying something we don’t care to hear?
The spouse? The kids? Our candidates?
Of course, as much as we all appreciate a great one-liner, our politicians would need to offer us more than factoids, and we would need to genuinely listen to statements and elaborations that exceed the sound bite.
Yet if we assume that it’s human nature to respond more positively to messages (and people) conforming to our existing belief system, can we nonetheless encourage open-mindedness to other opinions? Even if only by reminding ourselves to do so?
The Body Doesn’t Lie
Don’t we express every emotion in some physiological manner? Perhaps it’s more visible in certain circumstances, but isn’t it difficult to hide disdain for the boss, boredom with the in-laws, or the flutter of excitement when the cute new colleague strides into the office?
I’ve known my share of Masters of the Mask – haven’t you? They’re able to keep their poker faces intact, and it’s an admirable skill.
I’m also wary of it. What is useful professionally can be problematic personally. How do you ever know where you stand?
Rules of the Game
To be successful in certain fields, there’s no question you need to hide your feelings or remain detached. Politicians come to mind, obviously. So do lawyers, judges, executives, and counselors of various sorts.
Still, the fact that we unconsciously pay less attention to those who espouse an opinion with which we disagree, or simply someone we dislike, is a bit of information I never considered.
Returning to the original subject – our upcoming debates for the 2012 presidential election – I’ll be watching. And I’m going to do my very best to pay close attention to what both candidates have to say, and the way they say it.
What about you?
© D. A. Wolf