Fear WORKS! – When You’re Trying to Persuade

Promoting “Fear” is the application of a critical skill – Communications – and it is an excellent way to influence both thought and behavior. So some politicians use it . . . . . Like LBJ and his ad with the mushroom cloud; like “W” and his weapons of mass destruction; and like Donald who has people shaking in their boots with thoughts of caravans of criminals and rapists descending upon us from the south.

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals.

A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

So how does this help explain the unbridled loyalty of Trump supporters?

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason.

As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with remarks that would normally be seen as highly offensive.

Written by Dr. Bobby Azarian Ph.D. in Psychology Today

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