Political Campaigns

The attraction of implicit technology is that is promises to reveal attitudes people find difficult to verbalise, such as subtle nuances in the messages given out by political candidates. Social psychologists have argued that people can process political messages through two ways, a central route or a peripheral route (although most agree this is a simplification). Messages that appeal to the central route spell out the logic of a particular policy or political argument and highlight the weaknesses of competing policies and arguments. Messages that appeal to the peripheral route are those that focus on  presentation style and aspects that are indirectly relevant to an argument, such as using one’s hands to appear more dynamic, rolling up one’s sleeves to appear more determined and ready to fight for one’s beliefs, the use of an emotive tone in one’s voice to appear more sympathetic and passionate, or the use of triplets when highlighting the benefits of a particular policy (i.e., it is often stated in the literature on persuasion that when listing the benefits of a policy, three benefits is the optimal number. Tony Blair was famously quoted as saying the three most important areas of his party are “Education, education, education”). In general, the use of rhetorical devices (any linguistic tool one might use to convince the listener/reader that one is right. Here’s a link to some examples: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-rhetorical-devices.html) appeal to the peripheral route, most likely because they appear to make an argument more plausible irrespective of its logic.

So for example, one might be attracted to the policies of one candidate but attracted to the social skills of the other. If the individual reflects on the policies of both candidates and votes for the candidate with the policy they evaluate to be better, the candidate who is more able to appeal to a central route gets the vote; if the individual is attracted to the better dressed candidate or the one who relies on rhetoric rather than logic, the candidate better able to appeal to the peripheral route gets the vote. Hence implicit technology, might help us to better understand the effect of the peripheral route in persuading voters.

An important aspect of traditional polling methods is the use of interviewing, which relies on voters being able to stipulate how they feel on a range of issues related to candidates and political parties. One problem with this method is that people might not know exactly how they feel about a candidate or at least might find it difficult to put their feelings into words. Consequently, when asked about how they intend to vote, they may be ‘undecided’ or unsure. Implicit testing might therefore also help us better predict which way such people might vote since the need to ask direct questions is bypassed.