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So here's the ChangingMinds Blog, from site author, David Straker. This is my more personal ramblings, though mostly about changing minds in some shape or form. Please do add your comments via the archive or the right-hand column below.  -- Dave


Sunday 16-April-17

Culture, anger and negotiation

With upcoming Brexit negotiations in Europe and emotions running high, it is going to be a bumpy ride. Britain wants free trade and border control. Europe wants to set an example to stop other black sheep leaving the fold.

A question in negotiation is the extent to which you are cool and professional or whether you should express emotion. Anger in particular is a tricky one as it easily provokes the fight-or-flight reaction. The result is either one side capitulating (which is the implicit purpose of anger) or a stand-up fight where reason flies out of the window. Culture can make this a doubly dangerous game as we misunderstand the likely reactions of the other side. For example Adam et al (2010) found that students from different cultural backgrounds who used anger in negotiations could suffer from a significant backfire effect.

Yet anger, used carefully, can have a helpful effect. Adam's experiments made this work when subjects were warned beforehand of cultural tendencies of the other side to become angry. When you come from a culture where public displays of anger are disapproved of, then seeing anger can be alarming as you assume the other person has lost control of themself. Yet there are also cultures where non-expression of emotion means you are not really committed. If you know if it is normal the other side to express anger, then you will be less likely to be aroused by its use.

If you are faced with the anger of the other person, the first step is to bite your tongue. Do not get provoked into unthinking reaction. Take a break if needed to cool down, or just say nothing. Then think about why they may be anger. Is it something you said? Are they deliberately trying to manipulate you? If you have said something that could reasonably be interpreted as a provocation, apologize but do not offer negotiation concession (this is often the target). If they are trying something on, you can even turn things to your advantage, even by winding up the argument, being 'insulted' yourself or otherwise working for your own advantage.

A way to make anger work in a Western context is to remain relatively calm while indicating in words that you are feeling angry, for example by politely saying something like 'I am becoming very frustrated' or even 'I find that insulting'. When working across cultures, a good understanding of whether anger is acceptable (or even expected) can also help you choose your strategy and hence be successful.

Adam, H., Shirako, A., & Maddux, W.W. (2010). Cultural variance in the interpersonal effects of anger in negotiations. Psychological Science, 21, 6, 882-9

Sunday 03-April-17

Anti-Political Correctness as Power

Political correctness is a term that first appeared in about 1990 as a criticism of liberal values that promote equality and fairness. It has never been a real term to promote fairness. Instead, it was only an insult, a denigration that declares attempts at fairness as being excessive, wrong and illegitimate.

We are naturally biased. We unfairly criticize and act against the interests of others. We seek out reasons, real or imagined, for those who are not like us to be wrong and bad. We excuse our ill-treatment of them and justify punishments. In this way, we build our identity. We are not like them. We are good and right.

We are also biased towards people who are like us, who share our beliefs and values, who are similar in all kinds of ways. We seek out such similarity and focus on being the same. This is the basis of tribalism, of bonding like-minded people into a cohesive, supportive unit, of creating a powerful 'we' who can defend ourselves and oppose others.

A tricky tribal problem lies the social rule of caring for the vulnerable, who are less able to care for themselves. This can make them an uncomfortable burden and an acid test of morality. Helping our friends is good, but helping the vulnerable is extra-good. For some, this has been a path to social superiority as they champion the weak and chastize those who do not provide sufficient support.

This championing is, by definition, laudable. Yet it has also led to unexpected, immoral effects. Over the past decades, attention to the vulnerable has escalated at a steady rate. For some, this has not been fast enough. For others, it has spiralled out of control. In particular, those just above the 'vulnerable' level feel especially hard done by. They see the weak getting help, with massive funds being used to help the helpless minority. Yet their own majority position has been losing out as their standard of living is constantly eroded and jobs threatened or lost. Worse, they feel themselves now at the bottom of the social order as positive action and other support lifts the vulnerable above them. They can't even tell biased jokes like they used to, that made them feel momentarily superior, without the PC police kicking them back to the bottom.

Feeling ignored, mistreated and downtrodden, many in this underclass had given up voting, considering it a waste of time as neither of the major parties seemed interested or able in improving their lot. So when some canny politicians woke up to this situation, they realized here was an untapped source of great power.

Paradoxically, the majority parties who had adopted the politically-correct position of helping the vulnerable (even if they dragged their heels in practical action) were unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Those able to grasp the politically-incorrect nettle have been thick-skinned demagogues and parties on the political fringes. With conventional rules of politics cast out, they play to their audience, giving voice to common bias and making bold promises that seem politically suicidal or financially impossible, yet which their audience laps up.

This style of politics has been labeled 'populism' by a cynical mainstream. In some ways it is indeed cynical as it tells people what they want to hear, yet impossible promises have long been a political ploy. Politics is a performance and playing to the crowd an essential game.

If the dirty truth be known, there are many more beyond the lower classes who still have plenty of bias and who have tired of ever-escalating politically-correctness. There are also those of power who have smelled opportunity in the shifting winds of opinion and played canny backroom games. The result has been bombshell referenda and elections where the PC-free have gained power. Even those not elected have found themselves listened to, if not in awe then at least in fear.

Has the game changed for good? Is political correctness a thing of the past, a blip in history? I think not. A thing creates its opposite and the shocked mainstream is regrouping and good people will come to the aid of the party. The war of politics is never finally won and I expect more battles and further swinging of the political pendulum.

We live in interesting times and the one thing I don't expect is boredom.

Sunday 26-March-17

Leave, Remain or Stay: Small words that may have changed the world

Since 2016, Brexit has been all the talk in the UK. It has also gained a great deal of interest in Europe and around the world as international trade and migration are seriously affected by this. The UK's vote to leave the European Union was a contentious and surprising one. Those who wanted to stay in Europe were expected to win, but were pipped at the post by a narrow margin.

In closely-fought contests, even the smallest things can make the difference between winning and losing. In this case, we can look at the words used, and how these might have been used to bias the results.

Initially, the vote was going to be a simple answer to the question 'Do you want to leave the EU?' However, someone realized that this would cause bias because, as all sales people know, people are generally more likely to answer 'Yes' than 'No' to any question. We like to feel positive and 'Yes' just seems better. The 'Yes' campaign (to leave) would hence have an advantage.

So they changed the question to 'Do you want to leave or remain in the EU?' Now the choice is 'Leave' or 'Remain'. This seems better, but they are still not equal. 'Leave' is a nice, simple, one-syllable word. 'Remain' is a two-syllable word that is more likely to be used by those with greater language sophistication. A word that is more equal to 'Leave' would be 'Stay'. Why was this not used? It is a single syllable and is sociologically simpler than 'Remain'.

To make this even more biased, the actual voting slip had two choices: 'Remain a member of the European Union' and 'Leave the European Union'. The first choice is longer than the second choice, again making the 'leave' option a cognitively easier one to make.

For want of a syllable, the UK's future, as well as that of Europe and the rest of the world, has been changed forever.

Sunday 12-March-17

Our two greatest challenges

In our lives we need to face many challenges, some of our own choosing and some that are thrust upon us. Sometimes they are troublesome, sometimes they are interesting, and sometimes they are exciting. And no matter how we feel about them when we face them, we feel good when we overcome them. Indeed, studies such as Czikszentmihali's 'Flow', have shown that challenge is a great path to happiness.

Two of these challenges that we must unavoidably face are perhaps the greatest challenges that we face during our lifetime.

As a child, we live in the cocoon of the family where much is provided for us. But this does not last forever. At some time we must face life, striking out by ourselves, becoming independent and self-sufficient. We go from being child to adult, from receivers to providers, from students to workers. We have total choice in all things, but have to face the consequences of our choices.

A difficult transition here is that children are often happy to receive more authority, gaining control over their lives, but they do not like having responsibility, with nobody to rescue them and nobody to blame but themselves. Many people show a failure to complete this transition to adulthood as they avoid responsibility and try to blame others when things go wrong. It can also be seen when people feel that they are still somehow a child rather than an adult well into their 20s and beyond.

As an adult, we grow older and must eventually face the inevitability of our own deaths. With luck, this comes with old age, but can appear at any time. It can be a surprise and it can be the end-stop of a terminal illness. When we are young, life seems infinite, but gradually the horizon gets closer. We busy ourselves with our lives and ignore it for as long as possible, but aches, pains and the death of loved ones increasingly reminds us of our own impending doom. It catches us up as the value we place on the remainder of our life seems constant, such that the older we get, the more we value each day.

We may find religion, science or philosophy to help explain what it is all about, yet we must still face our death. A question here is in the difference between dying and being dead. Being dead may be easier to accept. Religion promises a glorious afterlife, while science suggests non-existence removes worry or pain, although the philosopher in us worries at the loss of identity. The process of dying can be a more immediate worry, as it suggests pain or perhaps the loss of mental function and consequent identity.

As a young person, we must face life. As an old person, we must face death. Both are inevitable. While others can help, we must ultimately face these challenges alone. If we can do this, we will have cleared the way to a happier life.

Sunday 05-March-17

Knowing, ignorance and self-knowledge

If you take any subject, you can have a range of knowledge about this, ranging from no knowledge to full knowledge. Few people exist at the extremes of this spectrum, though many have little knowledge and a good number may have a lot of knowledge (but not total knowledge).

There is a second, reflexive dimension on knowledge, which is the self-knowledge of knowing about your knowledge, in particular knowing what you do not know. In other words, this is the ability to see the spectrum of knowledge in any given subject and place yourself upon it, saying 'I know this but I do not know that'. A paradox of learning is that, as you gain more knowledge, you realize how much more you have yet to learn.

It can become problematic if you do not know what you do not know, as this can make you arrogant as you assume you know everything. This can be seen in the 'curse of ignorance', where people are not only ignorant, but are also ignorant of their ignorance. This does not mean they have no knowledge. Indeed, they may be very knowledgeable. Yet they are still ignorant of some things, and this lack of self-knowledge can lead to combative argument.

Why might we not know what we don't know? Sometimes it is because we simply have not encountered a sub-domain of knowledge. People who understand Newtonian physics may feel they know how atoms work, even though they have not encountered quantum mechanics. Sometimes also, we actually do know there are things that we don't know but feel uncomfortable about this, so we pretend that what we don't know is unimportant or simply does not exist. This is where we turn to deception rather than accept ignorance, even as we condemn ourselves to remain ignorant.

The best position is always to accept your ignorance, and always be ready to learn. This requires a certain amount of humility, which often needs sufficient self-confidence to publicly and cheerfully admit ignorance. Yet it is a position from which we can each grown and learn, increasing both our real knowledge as well as discovering more ignorance as a route into a learning future.

Sunday 26-February-17

Do, Lead, Help, Nudge or Watch

In your life, whether it is at work, in volunteering or wherever, you can often see a whole set of activities going on or where some action are needed. A way to look at these are as 'projects', where there is an intended outcome following a certain amount of work. These 'projects' can be of any size, from a few minutes to several years. A critical question for you (or a group you are in) is 'What should I/we do about it?' Here are five options.


Sometimes all you need is to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. When something clearly needs doing the best approach is to do it rather than talk about it.

When you are going to do something, either taking the lead or doing it all yourself, there are three questions to ask:
1. Do I have the energy for this? (Or might I give up?)
2. Do I have the resources I will need? (From money to wheelbarrows)
3. Do I have the support I will need? (Including practical help and formal authority)

Particularly when we fear failure or criticism, we can get lost in the safety of meeting, talking and planning. While it is usually good to communicate, sometimes all you need to do is say 'I'm doing X. Did anyone want to join me'. Then just get on with it.


Some jobs you can do yourself. Other work is just too much for one or needs the expertise, resources or influence of other people. In voluntary contexts and where you do not have direct authority, this means you will need to influence others, motivating them to join your cause.

Leadership is a highly skilled activity, but if you are good at it you can get a lot done. It means being able to see both the big picture and how all the parts work together. It also means building such good relationships with the people involved that they want to help you and one another succeed.


At other times the project may not be yours to do. Perhaps you lack the energy to lead it or someone else already has the bit between their teeth. Perhaps you as, have been asked to help using our expertize, or maybe they want a bit of extra grunt work during a critical period.

Whatever the reason, on these types of projects you are a helper, not a leader. This makes life a bit easier as you do not have to chase people and be at every meeting. You can hence just do your bit and leave the worrying to other people.


In some projects you may have no active role, yet still have a concern for the outcomes of the work. This can be frustrating, as you want to steer the ship yet are neither the captain not the crew.

This is the position of the activist. Typically with concerns for social issues, they agitate, irritate and work to influence the decisions of those in power. Lobbyists, too, seek to nudge, cajole or otherwise influence the powerful.


Sometimes you have little influence, but are still interested in what is going on, for example so you can prepare for the outcome or discuss it with others. In such projects, you should just sustain a watching brief. Get hooked into information streams as you can, such as email distribution lists, notice boards, etc. and then just keep an eye on things.

If necessary, you can change your status on a 'Watch' project, for example if you become concerned that things are being done wrong or that your interests are not being examined,


Sunday 19-February-17

Organizing for local support and action

I work with a local 'town team' organization, whose goal is to help the local community improve. Our strapline is 'better together' and we want to make the town and area 'a great place to live, work and visit'.

Our challenge is that other local groups are rather inward-looking, concerned about their own affairs and unwilling to take the larger picture or look out into the future. Changing minds happens at every meeting and we need to be careful to keep our stakeholders happy. When you live in a small town, you can easily alienate many people with one bit of carelessness.

We were having the classic 'who are we' discussion the other day and I summarized the possible organizational role into an increasing level of complexity.

1a. Facilitating conversations. We did this in bringing together various groups from the county council to disability and cycling people to discuss a project to repave the high street. To be successful, this requires that we achieved a position of trust, sitting between all parties, which means not giving preference to any one, of helping everyone to be heard and holding back those who want to dominate. Facilitation in general means holding lots of conversations, helping people speak and listen to others. It means holding back your own

1b. Local activism. In some work we have taken the position of experts and cheerleaders. For example in the high street project, some of our members pushed for particular solutions. Contrary to the facilitation role, this may mean being partisan. It may lead some people we work with to not want future involvement with us. It may mean other groups feel we are treading on their turf. This oppositional dynamic means activism requires lots of energy to push through resistance, wear down the opposition and enthuse others to join in. There also seems a choice between this and facilitation. While we could do both, the dynamics of trust would make this difficult.

2. Volunteer projects. The easy way to get things done is to do them yourself. A simple example was when we got together to clean up a rather tatty car park. This role needs far less interaction with others, other than to find people to help and ensuring any opposition is minimized. It is a good way to get successes under the belt and evidence that we are a force for good. People like to associate with success, making this approach a good way to attract other volunteers.

3. Funded projects. In making improvements around the town, some things will need money, for anything from a bit of cement to paying for contractors to do major work. We did a presentation day for the town that needed money to hire the hall, print literature and so on. We would also like to do bigger things, from improving sports facilities to setting up a catering college. To do this means finding and managing money. It means understanding grant systems, how to apply for funds and keeping the funders happy as you use their money. This needs a prudent organization with the systems and expertize to attract and handle funds.

4. Managed projects. A step beyond getting funding which typically goes straight to a supplier, is to become more involved in the project, actively managing what is going on. We have not got to this as yet, but other town teams are doing such activities and it becomes necessary when funded projects require more active involvement. When you are a volunteer, becoming a manager can increase significantly the time you need to spend on the project, especially if you are managing the activities of other people. It turns helping when you can to working as you must. Even if you employ a professional project manager, you still need to manage the work of this person. It typically will require more formal project meetings, risk management, reporting and all the other aspects of managing projects.

5. Managed services. The highest level of activity that we have considered is in musing about the future, for example where local councils are seeking to divest responsibility for local assets such as parks and town buildings. In such cases the assets would be given to local trusts who would then become responsible for their upkeep. Managing projects is a short-term activity with a clear end goal. Managing services is ongoing work, quite possibly with permanent employees and contractors, and requires a long-term commitment.

Which path we take, whether to stay at the lower levels or reach into more active roles, will depend first on the energy and consequent commitment we can find.


Sunday 12-February-17

The polarisation of society and a way back to moderation

Have you noticed that politics has got rather fractious of late? Politicians are taking extreme views and refusing to work with one another. Little real work gets done amid the fruitless cat fight, which contributes further to electorate contempt. And not content with that, in-party schisms are commonplace, often as ever-more radical wings rip away at the traditional body as toleration gives way to right or left wing ideals. The electorate, too, split and raucous, see opposition politicians and their supporters as bad and even evil, rather than wrong and misguided.

This intolerance is also seen in society and religion and may even be seen in terrorism and consequent reactions. The internet, too, is bound up in this malaise. Anonymity and remoteness enabled extreme views to be expressed without fear of recrimination. Indeed, the simple buzz of power that trolls get from being nasty reflects our basest nature. Social media has also encouraged more extreme views in the shock-horror of gossip. In the search for affirmation, we band together into online tribes where we stroke one another's egos and attack out-group others lest we, too, are castigated for not being true enough to friends and tribal values.

Polarization is a classic us-vs-them tactic, where taking an extreme position casts those who are not like us at the other extreme, making them clearly 'not us'. This extreme psychological distance enables us demonize and dehumanize them, reducing them to faceless 'things', such that we can harshly criticize them, unfettered by common decency and social values that constrain our interaction with humans.

In other words, polarization is an easy short cut for the lazy and thoughtless who need approval more than reason. It is also the refuge of the insecure, who find the complexity of the real world too much to handle.

Polarization can also be seen in the distribution of wealth, at least in the 'western world', where there has been a gradual return to elitism with the '1%' super-rich, more people struggling to get by, and a general collapse of the middle classes. Where once a booming middle class with enough wealth for some luxuries was an aspirational possibility for many, now it has been eroded to the point where markers of affluence, for example home ownership, are becoming more and more of a distant possibility.

When you take away hope, you get hopelessness, and while some resign themselves to this fate, enough others are rebelling and may yet become a powerful political force, where the have-nots face off against the minority haves. For a long time the political right have fooled many with emotional appeals and empty promises that play to their fears, yet there also is a rising anger that is finding a voice of its own.

Moderation comes from appreciating and accepting others, but it also draws criticism from the righteous extremists. To be moderate means you cannot be mild. Handling complexity and intolerance takes fortitude of spirit. In the middle ground you cannot dehumanize as you seek true understanding. It means negotiating, giving and taking, and sometimes accepting situations that seem a bit unfair.

The pressures of an ever-faster life leads steadily from moderation to the easier extremes where we only have to look in one direction. Yet that polarized position brings new dangers. In a moderate society you can trust most people, even those who are not like you, to be civil and kind. But when things polarize, you see enemies at the gate and even inside the citadel. Where the defining emotion of moderation is love, fear rules the polarized.

So how do we get back? How do we create a kinder, more considerate society. The hardest first step is to stop fearing others, which leads to hating less. Yes, when you extend your hand to those who you have reviled, they may well try to bite it. But then moderation is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage and conviction to face critics from all quarters without slipping back into more extreme places.

And yet. Many of us know and prefer moderation. We consider kindness and civil society a great thing. Yet our fears hold us back. The good news is that society is more of a pendulum than a weight that drags us inevitably down. Moderate leaders will emerge and the silent majority will gratefully swing behind them.

The only question is where you will be in this movement.

Sunday 05-February-17

Understanding American Politics: It's Self vs Social, not Haves vs Have nots

A classic understanding of the political system in America (and generally in Western, democratic countries) is of the Haves vs the Have-nots. But this is not accurate, even as a simple model.

Classically, the Haves sit on the political right. In America they are called Republicans. Elsewhere they are called Conservatives. They have most of the money, and are focused on keeping it and getting more. In life, they are the senior managers and business owners (or perhaps their families). They like power but not taxes. They live expensively and away from the common people.

In opposition, the classic Have-nots are on the political left. In America they vote Democrat. Elsewhere they may be called Labour. They have relatively little money and are focused on survival. They live close to one another in small houses. They gain power through banding together in large numbers. When in power, they seek to protect jobs and increase welfare.

Yet if this was the simple truth, a democracy would always be run by Democrats. By definition, there are many more Have-nots than Haves. So what's up?

A key factor is that there are third and fourth groups.

The Haves can be broken into two groups. The Have-lots are the 1% elites who are wealthy enough to buy much of what they want without worrying about cost. They may have inherited wealth, been successful in business or been in a high-paying job for many years. In politics, they are likely to be Republican, where they seek low taxes and limited regulation. Their concern for others is seen in their foundations and charity balls. Tax-deductible, of course.

The Have-enoughs are the classic middle classes who have achieved the aspirational independence, picket-fenced home and all. They work hard in professional jobs or as reasonably successful business owners. They live comfortably but are still prudent. Politically, they may well be Democrats, with liberal views around preserving the environment and helping those less fortunate than themselves. They may also be aspirational to become a Have-lots (or fear becoming. Have-little) and so adopt a Republican position.

The Have-nots can also be divided into two. The real Have-nots are actually Have-nothings as and include vagrants, those on welfare and those who depends on charity. The may fall into this category for various reasons, including being runaways, having disabilities, and having fallen on hard times despite doing their best to support themselves (and possibly dependents too). While not a small group, they are not huge either and often lack direct political power. Their cause is often championed by those in higher groups, most typically Democrats. The Have-nots are unlikely to be politically active and may not even have voting rights (which means they are not attractive to political parties).

A large group who are often called Have-nots are more accurately Have-littles. These are the mass who work in low-paid jobs and for who life is a touch-and-go struggle as they try to avoid becoming a Have-not. They include people who have worked hard for many years and who are tired and disillusioned. In political communications they get patronising labels, such as 'hard working families' which tacitly recognizes the survival trap that keeps them near the bottom of the pile.

A further group that spans several levels are the 'Vulnerables' and include all groups containing people who can be the recipient of bias and unfair treatment. These include migrants, ethnic and religious groups, those with different sexual preferences, people with disabilities, women, older people and so on. Their disadvantages can be a spur to action when they define their lives through fighting through adversity. In this way they can become Have-enoughs and, occasionally, Have-lots. Overall, though, they are largely spread through the Have-littles and into the Have-nothings.

While opportunity still exists, it's not what it was. A common experience is of hard-working Have-littles losing their jobs as globalization led to cheap imports and industrial wastelands. Where they can, many have clung on in lower-paid and insecure jobs, as zero-hours contracts and the 'gig economy offer them scant lifelines. And, to add insult to injury, they see Vulnerables getting preferential treatment as liberal-minded Have-enoughs implement 'fair' policies that erode what little advantage they had. Vulnerables get welfare as the Have-littles struggle to make ends meet and, paradoxically, seethe at the unfairness of it all. Women and people of ethnic and diverse groups get promoted as positive action policies rebalance management ranks. To add insult to injury, Have-littles may see Environmental, health and safety laws as laudable but dangerous as they destroy jobs and are yet another thing that gets treated as more important than the ignored Have-littles.

A paradox of the Have-littles is that while they might be expected to vote Democrat, many vote Republican. This is the Republicans' secret sauce. By selling an anti-liberal message, promising greater security, and crafting evocative emotional appeals, including against welfare and environmentalism, they acquire a rich harvest of votes. While this may not be popular with Vulnerables, it gives voice to the fears of the many non-vulnerable Have-littles, in particular communities which are dominated by non-vulnerable men whose authority is accepted by others around them.

This creates an interesting skipping pattern, where Republicans skip liberal Have-enoughs in pursuit of the Have-little majority, while the Have-enough Democrats skip many of the Have-littles to try and help the more deserving Vulnerables and Have-nothings. A reverse effect happens too, as the Have-littles envy and rail against Have-enoughs who are their immediate seniors or an annoyingly well-paid professional, from dentists to consulting engineers. Out-of-reach Have-lots, however, are idealized and idolized as celebrities and potential champions who will save the Have-littles, just as the Have-enoughs seek to save others.

The perception of fairness has a particularly polarizing result as different groups believe themselves entirely right in wanting what they think is fair. Have-lots think it fair that they keep their high but hard-won incomes and to run their businesses as they think fit. Democrats seek a balanced fairness, where Vulnerables get special treatment to compensate for the bias they receive (Vulnerables of course agree with this). Have-littles want jobs and to not be the victim of Democratic bias that gives Vulnerables unfair advantage.

An electoral dilemma with Have-littles and Vulnerables is that their disillusionment with politicians and the state means that many do not vote. This can harm political parties, particularly when a significant community leans towards one or another party. Ethnic groups, for example, are far more likely to vote Democrat. If such groups can be energized, for example as done differently by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, they can have a huge electoral impact.

Taking this slightly larger segmentation, we can question again the rationale for voting Democrat or Republican. Have-lots Republicans want to keep their millions so want low tax. They also like few regulations that constrain their businesses. Have-lots and Have-enough Republicans fear losing their lifestyle and the crime that threatens this. Have-little Republicans just want more security, which translates first into decent jobs. They often live in tough areas and so also fear crime.

Have-some Democrats take a wider, more social view. Have-little Democrats feel their plight more as a community, for example being oppressed because of the shade of their skin. Their concern extends further than the self and more into social concerns.

A simple conclusion is that the Republicans appeal to the basic human drivers of fear (Have-littles) and greed (Have-lots) while Democrats have the more difficult task of appealing to compassion (Have-enoughs) and community (Have-nothings). Why? Because fear and greed have a self- or family-focus, while compassion and community appeal to those who are other-focused or we-focused.

Yes, it is a simplification. There are socially-minded Republicans and selfish Democrats. Yet Self vs Social makes more sense as a characterizing model than Haves vs Have-nots, as discussed above.

A further way of understanding this is in the collision between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism encourages wealth and the self-based view. It rewards individual success and assumes social concern will naturally arise from this. Democracy is the check on capitalist selfishness. While people may still be selfish, the public nature of democracy encourages a strong social concern.

What does this mean for politicians? For Democrats who seek to address natural Democrats, they should appeal to social values and ethics. To appeal to those with Republican leanings, they should make financial and security appeals. Meanwhile Republicans might woo Democrats by emphasizing community and the environment.



For more, see the ChangingMinds Blog! Archive or the Blogs by subject. To comment on any blog, click on the blog either in the archive or in the column to the right.


Best wishes,



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