Voting for Trump can make some people happy, literally.

Trump has entertaining tweets, full stop. What can we learn from his online behaviour? Scientists suggest that novelty seeking is innately human and we can get used to it.

Humans are obsessed with novelty. From childhood to old age, seeking new things to do or to buy remains a typical behaviour. From noticing a newcomer during pre-school to political issues on some distant country. These examples have a common underlying reason that may explain why some people will vote for Trump in the 2020 presidential elections. This reason is called ‘neophilia’ and refers to the enthusiasm and love for what is new.

If Trump is running for a second turn, then where is the novelty in that? Unlike other politicians and former presidents who play ‘by the book’, Trump continuously surprises us with controversies. According to Twitter, Donald Trump is an avid tweeter with over 42,000 tweets since 2009 [1], that’s roughly 11 tweets per day while sitting in the Oval office. His Twitter account is a source of official and personal communication whilst applying an unparallel grammar and ‘great’ vocabulary. He doesn’t have a social media team managing his Twitter account, which reinforces his authenticity and entertains his followers. So it’s not a surprise that Twitter’s Sentiment Score, which analyses the tone of voice and words of tweets, reported that the majority of Trump’s tweets have positive content. He seems to understand that, in general, entertainment grabs people’s attention, even if we don’t agree with his messages.

The psychology behind novelty

Donald Trump’s bluntness, as a president, is something that some of us never thought it would be possible. Which presidential candidate would have the courage to say that in other circumstances, he would probably date his daughter? Let alone denying climate change, and withdrawing support from the World Health Organization amidst a global pandemic? Based on the psychology of decision-making, it’s possible that some people will vote for Trump, regardless of their political preferences.

Some psychologists have suggested that political orientation can be explained by the size of specific brain structures [2]. Also, there is evidence that these structures receive significant influence from Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure, think and plan, even in politics [3, 4]. But the level of Dopamine is not the same for everyone, which partially explains why we don’t think or feel the same way about politics. Also, it suggests, that political orientation is a spectrum (going from left to right), and not a binary choice (either left or right). If moral values can change, then political preferences certainly can too; people might change their minds.

On average, people have the tendency to explore new and unfamiliar objects, environments and ideas [5, 6]. This is clearly demonstrated by the media’s broadcasting priority lists. For example, most people don’t want to read how we could bring back the US to a global climate deal after Trump decided to leave the Paris Climate Accord [7]. Instead, some of us would prefer watching the news about his sexual scandals with Stormy Daniels. Some news outlets will continue to promote Trump’s stories that are entertaining or deviate viewers’ attention from political issues. So, be careful what you wish for.

What now?

The president’s eccentric personality and entertaining tweets can make some us consistently achieve high levels of Dopamine. Perhaps, interviews on COVID-19, aggressive presidential campaign ads and everything else in between are what continue to make Donald Trump as novel as he was in the 2015’s election. It seems that constant entertainment can lead to dependent behaviour.

We could engage in political thinking as much as possible to make well-informed decisions before going to polling stations. Also, why not become more critical of the news rather than submitting to the pleasures of Dopamine? Otherwise, voting for Trump and other politicians can continue to entertain ‘novelty seeker’ voters.

References

[1] Twitter Sentiment Score – Trump Tweets

[2] Kanai, R., Feilden, T., Firth, C., & Rees, G. (2011). Political orientations are correlated with brain structure in young adults. Current biology, 21(8), 677-680.

[3] Dawes, C. T., & Fowler, J. H. (2009). Partisanship, voting, and the dopamine D2 receptor gene. The Journal of Politics, 71(3), 1157-1171.

[4] Settle, J. E., Dawes, C. T., Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2010). Friendships moderate an association between a dopamine gene variant and political ideology. The Journal of Politics, 72(4), 1189-1198.

[5] Hirschman, E. C. (1980). Innovativeness, novelty seeking, and consumer creativity. Journal of consumer research, 7(3), 283-295.

[6] Costa, V. D., Tran, V. L., Turchi, J., & Averbeck, B. B. (2014). Dopamine modulates novelty seeking behavior during decision making. Behavioral neuroscience, 128(5), 556.

[7] Retrieved from the WhiteHouse.gov website on 07 of May 2020.

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