Neuroscience behind Donald Trump’s Victory


Rage, anger, frustration, fear, jealousy, insecurity, alienation – anyone of these emotions by itself is enough to make one extremely irrational. But if one is possessed by all these at once and is asked to take a big decision, the outcome is bound to be catastrophic as we have seen in the behaviour of voters in the recent elections in the US. Neuroscience and neuroscientists explain it all beautifully. A neuro scientist from the university of Maryland, Dr Douglas Fields says that  while everyone is dismayed at the outcome of the elections, neuroscientists are not. Let us see how.

Human brain has a circuitry for reasoning which is also the centre of awareness and consciousness. This is known as the brain’s cerebral cortex.This can reason out and help in taking rational decisions. However it has limited capabilities in terms of memory and analysis. For instance, we can hold no more than 7 digits at a time in our working memory. This limitation puts us at a disadvantage when faced with a complex set of factors for decision-making (By the way, this raises the question whether humans deserve the name Homo sapiens – the wise ones?).

The complexity of decision-making often arises from that part of our brain which produces emotions. An emotion is just a feeling. The part of the brain which houses a host of emotions is called our limbic system. The cerebral cortex is  the centre of awareness while the limbic system is meant for generating emotions. For an emotion to be produced, you need a thought which is produced in the cerebral cortex. In the context of the elections, the cerebral cortex  creates a thought which divides citizens into two categories – ‘us’ and ”them”. ‘Us’ in this case could be our religion or race or our jobs. ‘Them’ are the Muslims, Asians etc. This division created by the thought communicates with our limbic system and generates all the negative emotions that I mentioned in the beginning. Fear and panic caused by terrorism, insecurity and alienation caused by the prospect of losing jobs to Asians, uncertainties due to a non-functioning government – all these emotions are too complex to be handled by the rational part of our brain. Under such conditions, there comes a privileged billionaire who appeals to these raw emotions and promises to take good care of their concerns. The mass hysteria falls for it and votes for him. Rational minds such as those of the pollsters, the media, elite and the intellectual class cannot comprehend, much less digest the happenings.

As the poet philosopher Leonard Cohen said: “There’s a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in”. Let us look at the happenings in that light.

 

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Published in: on November 13, 2016 at 5:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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