We often try to decipher whether conspiracies and hidden intent are laid within the political agendas that our leaders impose upon us. When we are encouraged to vote for a particular candidate, are there often ploys used in order to garner more favorable results in a round of voting? Well, the answer is both a yes, as well as a no.

While there aren’t any examples of classical brainwashing or hidden messages within the agendas of candidates that stand up for posts within the national constitution, or even students standing for class President, there are certain simple phenomena that can be used to explain why certain candidates win over others. One of these is the effect that a long list inadvertently has on the brain. It is known commonly as the Primacy Effect.

Psychologist Solomon Asch demonstrated the Primacy Effect with a simple experiment he administered to a set of subjects. He gave them each a list of adjectives, both positive or negative, each differently arranged, that described a particular individual. It was observed that a higher percentage of individuals having positive variables at the beginning of their list rated the individual as having more positive traits, and the same was seen for those with negative traits listed in the beginning of the list.

Image: Kelley Parker

The same applies to the context of an election. At most Indian elections, a long list of candidates is usually provided from which candidates are meant to pick one, or neither. Every citizen should exercise his or her right to vote, but the desire that underlies the whole notion is making an objective decision that leads to the greater good for society.

Often, in smaller, state level elections that aren’t well advertised there may be a tendency to store the initial items on the list of candidates more clearly in one’s mind, and make a decision based on this information. However, in this case, the notion of an objective decision being made is totally defeated. In the case of larger elections that are advertised such that the general population knows each candidate that they vote for, there may be a lower chance that the Primacy Effect exercises its hold over a voter’s mind.

The notion of the primacy effect has historically been shown to affect election results. An observation made by Jon Krosnick, professor of psychology at Stanford University states that the US New Hampshire Democratic Primary. Barack Obama was listed as the predicted winner based on pre-ballot surveys, but Hillary Clinton took the lead, merely because she was listed closer to the top of the list.

Image: Rooster Illusion

It’s pretty clear that the way the human mind remembers and stores information in its mind is based on the order of external stimuli that are inputted into it. However, the way we choose to perceive these stimuli is what guides our actions. Simply thinking that the first person on the list is the most viable option to cast a vote is not a rational way to go about things. Next time you go vote, read the list, and gauge what you may or may not know about the options or rather individuals that are posed to you. Following this little exercise of gauging one’s options will probably help you make a wiser decision.

Making an informed decision while exercising your rights is of paramount importance. Remember that the next time you get the opportunity to cast a ballot!