Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Political Campaigns’ New Invasive Tool to Win Elections: Scanning Faces, Brains and Bodies of Voters

Published on November 10, 2015 by   ·   1 Comment

Neuromarketing, the practice of using facial coding, biofeedback and brain imaging by marketers, is now being used by political campaigns to hone their messages.

In Mexico, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and President Enrique Peña’s campaign used neuropolitical techniques to gauge voters’ brain waves, skin arousal, heart rates and facial expressions during the 2012 presidential campaign. PRI is now experimenting with facial coding to help pick the best candidates. One way the new methods are put to use is by placing cameras in digital billboards and recording and measuring facial reactions to political messages.

Similar techniques have been used in Europe, other parts of Latin America, and even in the United States. Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired a neuromarketing firm to help it improve its targeting and messages.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Justice and Development Party hired a Turkish neuromarketing company before the June 2015 election. It reported to the campaign that Davutoglu was not connecting with voters.

In Poland, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and her party, Civic Platform, used a neuromarketing firm ahead of parliamentary elections last month, which they lost, according to The New York Times. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos’s 2014 campaign used the same neuropolitical consultancy advising Mexico’s governing party, and he won. Neuromarketing consultants have also conducted research in ArgentinaBrazilCosta RicaEl SalvadorRussia and Spain.

Some neuroscientists criticize the practice, saying even if researchers find a speech or commercial has spurred activity in part of a person’s brain, a campaign can’t know what that person is thinking. “For the most part, I think that companies selling neuroscience-based market research tools are taking advantage of people’s natural tendency to think that measurements of the brain are somehow more ‘real’ than measurements of behavior,” Russell Poldrack, a psychology professor at Stanford University, told the Times.

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