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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    One Born Every Minute: What to make of the marriage of political consulting and neuroimaging?

    Mr. Freedman and William Knapp, a strategist with both Clinton presidential campaigns and the Gore campaign in 2000, turned to this technology after consulting with Mr. Freedman's brother, Dr. Joshua Freedman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A., who was less than impressed by the methodology of political consultants.

    "It seemed so last century," Professor Freedman said. "Consultants were quoting Freud as if it was cutting edge. It was all about interpretation instead of using new technology to measure what's actually happening in the mind."

    Professor Freedman and the two political consultants formed a company, FKF Research, and provided a grant for an experiment led by Professor Iacoboni, a neuroscientist known for his work mapping parts of the brain activated when people empathize with others. He, Professor Freedman and a U.C.L.A. colleague, Jonas Kaplan, plan to publish the results in a scientific journal.

    "In the past decade we've built up all this knowledge of how the brain works," Professor Iacoboni said, "and now it's exciting that we can finally start applying it to social issues."

    Why is it that whenever there's an issue that centers around controlling the behavior, and now thoughts, of others, it's associated somehow with the party that's supposed to hold to liberal ideals?

    "This research can show how a candidate is unfairly targeting the weaknesses and foibles of voters, and that can be empowering," said Professor Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Baylor College of Medicine.

    Of course, political consultants could also use this technology to create more manipulative commercials, though Mr. Freedman and Mr. Knapp say they do not hope for partisan advantage from their research.

    "We just want to start exploring this new frontier," Mr. Knapp said. "We know we can't rely just on what people say in polls and focus groups. They tell us over and over that they hate negative advertising, but we know they respond to it. It would be nice to figure out what's actually going on inside their heads."

    They don't actually know what's going on inside their heads, just what parts of it light up on a scan. But they sure do know how to play with the heads of political consultants. There's gold in them there campaigns.


    posted by Sydney on 4/20/2004 09:50:00 PM 0 comments


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