Social Contagion, Emotions And The Voter 's Paradox
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In the 21st century, the ability to vote is seen in most developed countries as a right. Most seem to take pride in the freedom to choose who their country’s leader will be and relish in debating over which of the candidates’ arguments is the most logical. All in the spirit of democracy. But is voting really as straight forward and logical as we like to believe?
Let’s first look at what being irrational actually means. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, for something to be irrational it must be “not based on reason, good judgment, or clear thinking”. This means that if a vote is “rational”, it must be a clear reflection of what people believe in, not influenced by any outside factors. To see if this is actually the case, we’ll be examining phenomena such as social contagion, emotions and the “voter’s paradox”.
Checking back in with the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we see that a vote is “the collective opinion or verdict of a body of persons expressed by voting”. And there is our first obstacle to a perfectly rational vote - when humans make decisions in the presence of others, they’re influenced by what others think. Social pressures affect people’s decisions all of the time. This is what the psychologists like to call this social contagion.
The university of Notre Dame conducted an experiment in 2008 on a sample of households with two registered voters. They knocked on the doors of each of these houses and presented them with either a placebo pitch on recycling or