Today is election day and during the campaign I have been looking to see how the various parties try to manipulate potential voters using psychological techniques. To illustrate how psychology plays a part in campaigning David Cameron included the psychological influence book ‘Nudge’ on the shadow cabinet reading material – so psychological influence is something uppermost in campaigners minds. Most significantly this is through the langauge used and the election debates have shown how subtle uses of lanaguges can help shape opinion.
For example it is reported in the New Scientist that David Cameron used the most I-words, making his play through emotional and personal statements.
Nick Clegg’s engagement is equally through personal engagement, a strong narrative and linguistic honesty. The New Scientist also reported that: Cameron also overtook Clegg in his use of words related to negative emotions. Last week, negative emotion words comprised 1.85% of Cameron’s total output, compared with 1.52% this week. Clegg, by contrast, allowed his use of negative emotion words to climb from 1.35% of his total output last week to 1.61% last night.
Gordon Brownl used the least personal approach and presents ideas into highly specific and precise concrete categories. Brown’s manner is typically predictable, except when it seemed the chips were down and he presented in a much more natural and intuitive way. And the forced smile – unfortunately we can all spot this.
However perhaps the biggest influence is the general concept of change and whislt we are generally more likely to stick with the same party as in the past – the wanting to be part of the winning team is also tempting voters. What is always interesting however is the concept of individual gains outweighing group gains. So the concept of altruism is not something that has been prevelant in the campaign – voters talk about themselves and the political parties have also been keen to stress individual benefits rather than the bigger and wider benefits to society.
Overall the psychological manipulation has been high through advertising, emotional engagement, emotive language, body languages and gestures and so on – but a key question is to what sense are we psychologically primed to spot the manipulation – do we engage with humility and honesty in a natural way or have we all been taken for a ride?