“Understanding is not cognitive. It is emotional.” In other words, you do not understand something because you have successfully followed a line of logic. You understand it at an emotional level. This assertion was made to me recently by a professional psychologist. I did not have a chance to question her about it but it seemed an interesting idea and highly relevant to democracy, politics and policy choices.
Why do people think the NHS is a good system? Is it because they have weighed up evidence – comparing outcomes in different countries and how well poor people as well as others are treated? No, of course not. It is an emotional decision. And if you present them with reasoned argument based on evidence that another system works better and has better outcomes, will they quickly change their views? I guess probably not. Coming to have a different view or different understanding of what is true and what is not is a difficult process, even a wrench. It may take a series of experiences over a period of months or years for it to take place.
Politicians instinctively understand that views and understanding are emotional. So they present things in a way to appeal to emotions as much as to logic. I guess Hitler, more than most, used emotions to persuade people to follow his views.
It is an area I would like to learn more about. For democracies that are following bad policies and which really should change course, the process of revising assumptions is important. But also at a personal level, how wedded many of us are to certain ideas and views and how very resistant we are to changing them.
- After the MP expenses scandal, politicians can no longer pretend they do not accept the concept of the ‘producer interest’
- Which works: cash or conditionality?
- Duncan-Smith versus the Treasury
- Bombs and politicians – I won’t relinquish my view quite yet
- If Mr Dacre is changing his view, Mr Brown really is finished