Monday, November 03, 2008

Do People Change Their Minds On The Last Day? No.

On this day before an historical election, many of you may be worried about whether the negative ads of recent days will have any affect upon voters who have already made up their minds.

The answer to this is no.

There are five primary psychological reasons for this--all of which point in the same direction.

Habit: The reason people do the same behaviors in life, rather than acting in a new way each new moment, is habit. The reason that habit is so powerful is that what is known is always more predictable than what is unknown. Given a choice between the predictable and the known, people will do what they repeatedly have described to themselves over time. . Therefore, if the majority of citizens have said to themselves for many weeks 'I am voting for Obama because he is the best candidate' or other reasons, they will continue to vote in that direction, even when faced with so-called "new" mudslinging. The reason for this is that they would prefer to decide on the basis of what they have already learned rather than on ambiguous and new information.

Consistency: There is a very powerful directionality towards self-consistency. People do not want to contradict their own strongly held opinions and beliefs, as this causes cognitive dissonance. Given the amount of attention people have paid to the election at this point, they have had thousands of occassions on which they have strengthened that opinion and belief. To change at this time would create massive cognitive conflict, and as a consequence, few will do it.

Security: By now, people have connected their decision to their own lives--to future desires and outcomes. These links have already been established. In the eyes of the McCain handlers, further attacks might seemingly change the minds of some voters, Rather, they will make voters see the desperate nature of the campaign, causing them to hew to a more stable and secure option, i.e., the choice they have already decided upon. They will feel more secure by staying with their choice.

The Consensus Effect: As each person sees the other not responding to the various forms of mud throwing, due to the factors listed above, they realize they are correct in their own similar experiences--they are assured that they are acting in the right fashion. As a result, they are further reinforced in not changing their position.

Understanding of Timing: The electorate is aware that this is the conclusion, and can set the "new" information in its proper perspective, realizing that it would have been raised long before if it had actually been true, and recognizing that these are the acts of a campaign that can only raise such canards.

To this, I add a sixth--on rational analysis, he's the best candidate.

Now--get out and vote.