Well, the first thing is to stop worrying about what’s in the papers and what’s online. And think about what’s in our mind.
The people trying to influence the way we vote know a lot about how our minds work. They know about our biases. So we need to know the biases too, so we know what the influencers are up to. Here’s one of the biggest biases they appeal to. Fear.
Studies show that humans beings tend to be pessimistic about the outside world and the motivations of other people. We’re prone to believe negative stories about poverty, crime and human depravity. We’re often more alive to what we have to lose than what we have to gain. When someone’s trying to get us to buy, or share, or vote… their best weapon is often fear.
In this election, you are invited to fear Brexit. To fear the Brexit Party. To fear the stripping and privatisation of the NHS. To fear Jeremy Corbyn. To fear the SNP. To fear more cuts. To fear more taxes. To fear immigration. To fear crime. To fear each other.
And it’s not that fear is always the wrong response. The point is that we have a slight weakness for fear. Which can give the campaign that instils the most fear a slight advantage.
You can’t stop the negative campaigns. You can’t even stop your own fear, perhaps. But when you go into the voting booth, you can think about what you want to base your vote on. And you can remember that if you’re basing it on a feeling of fear, you could be doing exactly what the political adverts want you to do. In which case, who’s really making the choice?