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NEWSWEEK Goes Neuropolitical

- February 10, 2008

Need a quick briefing on recent developments in research on voter decision-making? Where do you turn? How about an academic journal like Political Psychology? Fine, but maybe it’s too specialized for your purposes. Or a “bridge” journal that has as part of its mission presenting highly specialized political science research in a way that the rest of us can digest, like Perspectives on Politics? Yup, but they may never get around to the topic you’re interested in. Maybe even The New Yorker, which regularly publishes articles along parallel lines by Malcolm Gladwell? Well, okay, but again, you might have to wait for years until anything pertinent appears there. Well, then, how about a newsweekly – Time, Newsweek, or US News? Nah – that would be silly.

But yah. The very first words on the cover of the February 11 issue of Newsweek, right up there where you can’t miss ’em, are: “The Science of Voting.”


Open up the issue and beginning on page 34 you’ll find a piece, here, by Sharon Begley, who does a pretty good job of delivering cognitively-oriented political psychology to the masses, or at least to that portion of the masses that takes enough interest in public affairs to subscribe to a newsweekly. Included in the article are quotes from and/or references to research by political scientists Rick Lau, Sam Popkin, George Marcus, and Pippa Norris. The Newsweek story is inevitably superficial – no one could realistically hope to provide in-depth coverage of such a complicated and wide-ranging topic in three pages (which is a lot for a Newsweek story, though it would be a mere drop in the bucket for The New Yorker) – but it’s not bad at all, and it’s nice to see political scientists being treated as serious researchers rather than just as inside dopesters.

(By the way, Newsweek is on something of a cognitive neuroscience kick. See Begley’s “Mind Reading Is Now Possible” piece in the January 21 issue, here.)

[Hat tip to Stanley Feldman]