Neuropolitics in the wild… watching, learning | What's Left

Data has become a critical part of any political campaign. Information about who voted where, what they said on the doorstep, whether they donated to a party, showed up to an event, or liked a post on Facebook are now all being used by political campaigns to better shape messaging,mobilize supporters, and get out the vote on elections day.

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As the New York Times details, “neuromarketing” or “neuropolitics” takes this data collection a step further. By embracing technologies such as facial recognition and biometric scanning, political parties, governments, and companies are able to get live, visual feedback from random, unknowing citizens encountering political imagery and messaging in their day-to-day lives. For instance, by placing hidden cameras in billboards, a political party can learn, in real-time, how individuals react to different kinds of messaging.

Most readers will be familiar with the reaction graphs that ran across the bottom of the screen during the 2012 U.S. election debates. However, while this data was provided consensually by a group of interested voters, these new methodologies are raising ethical questions around the implications for privacy and for democracy – even while it’s effectiveness is being questioned by many neuroscientists.

Already in the wild, this technology is being used to choose candidates and shape political messaging in dozens of countries, including the United States.

More: Neuropolitics, Where Campaigns Try to Read Your Mind