Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Engage Brain Before Speaking

Some scientists studying at the Beacon of Light, Knowledge and Decency in This Corner of the Universe (aka Northwestern University) have discovered that we began to understand some abstract concepts as babies, well before we could talk or express them.

The study showed infants around seven months old pairs of objects, and then placed a barrier in front of them and either changed the objects around, replaced one of a pair of identical objects with a different object, or some other different manipulations. The babies looked longer at the different objects than they did at the pair of identical objects, which is the usual sign in infant research that a baby is thinking about something. A longer stare is baby-speak for, "Well, what's all this then?" while a shorter glance means the baby has become bored and wants to look at something else. Teenage children often exhibit the opposite behavior, staring at something for many hours while frequently proclaiming boredom.

Now here might be the place where you would expect me to make a joke about how we lose the habit of thinking before speaking as we age -- we do -- and linking that to politicians. That would be a good joke, but not necessarily good enough. Nor would it be entirely true.

In fact, politicians actually develop higher perceptive skills as they gain experience. You and I look at what we have earned or what we own and we only see what we own. But simply by looking at a person, group of people or a company, politicians are able to discern differences in those very same things. They look at what we have earned or what we own and see which part of it belongs to us and which part of it belongs to them.

The part about them not thinking before they speak used to be more true than it is today. Today there are spokespeople, media relations firms and PR folks who spend most of their working hours saying the things that the politician would say if the politician were thinking before speaking. Often those things are what a poll tells the media management people that voters are thinking, but sometimes those things are things that the politician might actually say or believe. Wonders never cease.

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