Psychology and the 2016 Election
According to the democratic ideal,
citizens rationally evaluate policies and candidates and then make choices
after careful consideration of the evidence. But in real life people make
political decisions based on both reason and emotion. Indeed, it is often the
case that voters’ emotions govern their rationality. Reasons are given for
decisions that have already been made because they feel right.
Politicians seek to influence these
feelings through their speeches, symbolic actions, advertisements, endorsements
and policy positions. Campaigns often consist largely of attempts to persuade
people that “I’m on your side,” “I care/understand,” “My opponent is
We will examine some of the ways that Mr. Trump
and Secretary Clinton have attempted to communicate sincerity, understanding,
and competence to the voters, while at the same time trying to undermine each
other’s messages. Both have had significant successes and failures in these
We will then discuss how Americans have
reacted to these candidates. Given their relatively high unpopularity, why were
they chosen by their parties in the first place? How are they being evaluated
now? Why do some people love one candidate and hate the other?
Dr. Daniel McCarthy is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he is a graduate of Manhattan College (B.A.) and the University of Notre Dame (M.A., Ph.D.). His teaching areas include the American presidency, Congress, constitutional law, and public policy.
McCarthy’s current research is a study of the role of conspiracy theories in American politics, especially how these theories affect elections and why many people believe the theories.
Dr. Stephen O'Rourke is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences at The College of New Rochelle (CNR). He received his Ph.D. in Social/Personality Psychology from the University at Albany. Since joining CNR in 2000, he has taught Psychological Statistics, Experimental Psychology, Personality Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychology of Learning, Psychology and Religion, and a new evolutionary studies course entitled Evolution Everywhere.
While previous research work has focused on the Big Five model of personality, adult attachment theory, and evolutionary psychology, Stephen's current research is on the effects of face-to-face cooperative games on emotions and cognition. Together with colleagues at SUNY New Paltz (and potential student researchers here at CNR), they are developing a program of research on the positive psychology of tabletop/analog game-play.