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Event Summaries
October 31, 2017

Event Summary: What’s Your Bias?

Henry Jackson Society

On the 24th October 2017, the Henry Jackson Society hosted Dr. Lee De-Wit, author of What’s Your Bias? and a psychologist and neuroscientist who has studied and worked at a number of leading universities in the UK and Europe. Dr. De-Wit provided an excellent insight into the surprising science of why we vote the way we do, taking various factors into account that are overlooked during the decision process that the electorate undertake.

Dr De-Wit’s summary of his book provided many surprising suggestions as to the theory behind the subconscious influences that alter our voting behaviour, most notably that of our genetics. Studies have suggested that twins, and more notably identical twins, are more likely to vote in the same way as they tend to evaluate the same ‘attitude items’, such as views on gay rights and capitalism, in the same way. Importantly however, the twins used in the study were not co-habiting but rather living separately and not experiencing the same subconscious effects. Regardless, they still came to the same conclusions. Resultantly, a discovery that there was a link between genetics and voting trends has been established.

Perception is another key factor in the bias that we have – a seemingly overlooked issue in reality, and one that leads to divide across the left and right of the political map. Dr. De-Wit pointed out Jonathan Haidt’s work titled The Righteous Mind in which he looked at five key factors – fairness, harm, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Importantly, it has appeared that fairness and harm and two factors much-more considered by those on the left-wing, whilst loyalty, authority and sanctity proved key factors in the views of those on the right-wing. As a result, political parties may attempt to appease these key issues of importance whilst attempting to gain more of a vote.

With the idea of things being considered unfair during the vote, a video of two monkeys showing different reactions to similar rewards perfectly demonstrated the issue at hand. With both monkeys similarly treated for doing the same actions, the fact that one was given a grape and the other a stick of celery with the latter throwing his celery away in anger, the monkey stopped doing his task. Almost in protest at his lack of grapes, the monkey was perfectly depicting the reality of voting – if you don’t think it’s fair, or you don’t think it will represent you to the necessary degree, you will stop voting. Fairness is therefore a key element of voting behaviour, and may contribute to the fact that certain groups and/or minority have different turnout levels.

Dr De-Wit provided a wonderful insight into the science and psychology of our voting behaviour, coupled with an insightful question and answer session with a thoroughly interested audience. The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank Dr De-Wit for his presentation and revelations that have provided a significant insight into the underlying reality of our voting behaviour.