Voting with the limbic system

Voting with the limbic system

A couple days ago a sweet photo drew my attention. It showed two men sitting down, seen from behind. One was wearing a “Yes” campaign vest, while the other was wearing a “No” vest. The no voter’s arm was on the shoulder of the yes voter. They were campaigning on opposite sides but they were still side by side. 

I posted a tweet with the photo and wrote: “You can yell as much as you want, but this is our true story.” I truly think that is right.

But I was saddened by the 50 or so comments written by users underneath. Twitter is certainly no perfect public survey forum, and 50 people ultimately do not mean much. But compared to previous campaign periods there is a clear difference of opinion. 

Some cracks jokes saying “after the photo was shot, the no-voter was surely beaten up by the yes-voter.” Others said it was “too romantic.” Others expressed sadness: “I wish it were so, but we have reached the stage where these are only wishes.” Social media users sadly did not believe in such a friendship. 

While I was expecting that most of my followers would agree that despite politics, we are all brothers and sisters, the number of those who opposed this view was steadily rising. 

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum on April 16, the first thing that the government has to do on April 17 is an immediate measure giving messages to end the polarization and the psychological division. 

Voter under threat decides with the limbic system 

Deniz Bayramoğlu has a weekend show on private broadcaster CNN Türk where he discusses interesting,
non-political subjects with experts. When the subject was “the brain,” I canceled everything and sat down to watch. Especially nowadays, this item is on the black market both in Turkey and the world.  

From love and happiness to anxiety and depression, the guests discussed the chemistry of the brain. One interesting observation was that political decisions are made based on rational data only at happy, problem-free times. 

In other words, if you do not feel threatened or are not afraid then you can look at the economy, the pledges of politicians and what will change in your daily life before making a decision. But if you feel threatened, if you feel your country is lonely and surrounded by enemies, then the more primitive sections of your brain - the limbic system - steps in and you make a decision without thinking, depending on sentiments or group identities. 

“For this reason, politicians generate fear, terror and uneasiness, making feelings and group identities such as religious, ethnic and traditional identities come to the fore, collecting votes from there,” said one neurologist.

While analyzing the outcome of the referendum on the evening of April 16, TV stations should certainly also ask neurologists and psychologists to comment. 

Am I a doomsayer? 

In a recent column I wrote about the possibility of a Third World War. The atmosphere at the time of writing was calm and suitable for such a joke, but within days clouds of dust had risen.  

Putin was saying that the U.S. was going to hit Damascus. Trump, meanwhile, was tweeting that “North Korea is looking for trouble.” 

It looks as if we will be suffering more from bullying leaders. The world is rapidly moving toward a sharp polarization. It has almost reached the stage where we are happy to hear about a “Second Cold War” because it is so much better than a “Third Warm War.”