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Hacking the political mind

From Campaigns & Elections:

People aren’t simple, and neither is politics. So why do so many professionals believe simple methods can resolve political questions about a massively complex muddle of voters, candidates, issues and emotions?

Understanding what actually causes a change in the big, buzzing confusion of human society and individual minds is tricky. Correlations and observational data can point us in promising directions, but they can’t answer the most important question: Does a certain message or tactic work? For that, we need apply the most fundamental scientific research tool: randomized controlled experiments.

Even medical science often gets this wrong. Studies of observational data find a correlation between being treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and lower rates of coronary heart disease (CHD). Many doctors and patients drew the conclusion that HRT caused better health. But recent randomized-controlled experiments suggest the therapy is at best ineffective and at worst harmful; the apparent impact was due to healthier lifestyles overall, not the drug.

Read the rest at Campaigns & Elections.

Posted on July 29, 2014.