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News Link • Politics: Republican Campaigns

Inconsistency: The Real Hobgoblin

• by Jon Hamilton, Alix Spiegel and Shankar Vedantam

This campaign season, inconsistency seems to be, well, almost everywhere. Each flip-flopping politician revels in pointing out the flip-flopping ways of his opponents.

Why are politicians and those of us who vote for them so obsessed with inconsistency? We take that question on from three angles: how our brains are wired; the psychology of judging what's consistent; and how consistency plays out in leadership styles.


Jon Hamilton: Why Our Brains Hate A Flip-Flopper

The problem with flip-floppers is that they are, by definition, inconsistent. They're unpredictable.

And our brains don't like that, says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins.

To understand why, Linden says, it helps to consider how the brain looks for consistency and predictability in even a mundane event like reaching for a cup of coffee.

Long before your hand reaches the cup, your brain starts making predictions about everything from how much force will be required to lift the cup to how the coffee will taste.

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