BBC: Politicians Exploiting Neuroscience To Manipulate The Masses

A BBC investigative reports top government officials are exploiting the last neuroscience research to manipulate the masses.

This is a shocking report from the BBC on how politicians and their advisers are using the latest advances in neuroscience to manipulate how the masses think. Of course, the article is full of doublespeak but just listen to the FULL BBC radio program below explaining this article.

Governments Exploiting Neuroscience To Manipulate The Sheep

Exploiting neuroscience lessons to shape policy

By Matthew Taylor Presenter, Brain Culture, BBC Radio 4

Gordon Brown and Philip Gould

Lord Gould believed it was important to understand the public’s emotional concerns about Labour
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Politicians and their advisers are exploiting advances in neuroscience in order to better understand the public, and how they make decisions.

From deciding what to buy in shops, to which candidate to vote for on election day, our decisions are based as much on emotional impulse as rational calculation.

It is a point appreciated by the philosopher David Hume when, in the early part of the 18th Century, he wrote, “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of passion”.

But what is changing now, as a result of the developing science of brains and behavior, is the precision with which those who seek to speak directly to our impulses can operate.

Fortunately, the new science is also available to the public.

Emotional politics

By understanding our cognitive shortcuts and vulnerabilities, perhaps we can be better at resisting some of messages being pumped out at us and also find paths to greater well being.

The death of Philip Gould – one of the architects of New Labor and the party’s most influential adviser over two decades – is a reminder that the art of political persuasion is not all about cynical manipulation.

Following Labor’s heavy defeat in 1992, Philip Gould knew it was critical to understand not just the public’s rational and explicit concerns about Labor but the deeper emotional barriers.

Now political advisers facing similar questions are starting to draw on the results of brain scanning.

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I spoke to one agency which successfully advised a mayoral candidate in South America.

By measuring brain responses, the agency had been able to brief the politician about his real emotional strengths and weaknesses – regardless of what people said in focus groups.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the agency was unwilling to disclose the name of the politician.

Voters might react badly to the idea that a campaign had been designed to appeal to their instincts rather than their reason.

But political advisers are only playing catch-up with the commercial world. In the last decade, so-called “neuro-marketing” has moved from the margins to the mainstream in the world of advertising.

The ‘nudge’

Professor Gemma Calvert, one of the most influential experts of neuro-marketing, argues that while advertisers have always appealed to our emotions, the big difference now is that scanning enables the marketers literally to see the brain’s automatic response.

Some people may still be skeptical; we want to believe our choices are rational. But a famous study by Professor Read Montague provides powerful confirmation of the neuro-marketers’ claims.
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By observing activity in the brain and comparing it with people’s stated preferences, Montague claims to have shown that our preferences for Coke or Pepsi are much more to do with marketing than taste.

Montague is among those who think brain science will have a profound impact on culture and society.

After all, it is not just commerce that is using the science.

The Cabinet Office has a team which uses an understanding of automatic cognitive processes to encourage – or “nudge” – us to make what government believes are wider and more pro-social choices.

If the science can be used by those seeking to shape our choices, can it also be used to help us keep control? Another intriguing study by Professor Montague suggests it might.

Exploring the way commercial sponsorship – for example of an art exhibition – can make us feel more warmly inclined towards a product, Montague found one group of subjects was systematically more able to resist this appeal.

It was those who had undertaken some form of mindfulness training. Mindfulness is a fast growing hobby in the UK right now. It is a form of non-spiritual meditation but it is also based on science.

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