Something which I've been saying for quite a while. We're all merely either soft leaners or hard leaners. Opebo should like this article too...
http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5icSKiQF_CzhVf-rW4Lo_x-zJ5zuQUndecided voters really not undecided, new study suggests
OTTAWA — Having a tough time choosing between Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion as another federal election looms?
A new study suggests you've probably already made up your mind - even if you don't know it yet.
The study, to be published Friday in the journal Science, suggests people who believe themselves to be undecided on an issue have actually already made a choice unconsciously.
The study was conducted late last year by a team of researchers at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and the University of Padova in Italy.
The team tested the "automatic mental associations" of 129 residents of Vicenza, Italy, about a controversial expansion of an American military base in their community.
In a computer test, participants were asked to rapidly rate a series of words, interspersed with pictures of the base, as either positive or negative. One week later, when participants made a conscious choice to support or oppose the base expansion, researchers found that those choices invariably reflected the initial automatic associations.
Bertram Gawronski, Canadian research chair in social psychology at UWO and the study's senior author, said the test enabled researchers to accurately predict the choices of 70 per cent of participants who initially said they were undecided.
It's not so much that people don't know their own minds, Gawronski said in an interview. Rather, when people are making a decision, "there's already a seed or root set at a much earlier point and people may not be aware of these seeds."
Gawronski said there's some debate among researchers about whether automatic mental associations are genuinely unconscious. He believes it's more precise to say that automatic associations "are indeed consciously accessible in the sense that they produce some kind of positive or negative gut reaction."
"People can feel those gut reactions but what people aren't aware of is how these automatic associations . . . influence their perceptions of reality. That is where the unconscious part comes in."
For instance, in a televised leaders' debate, an undecided voter with favourable automatic mental associations about Dion is likely to conclude that the Liberal leader is the winner, whereas someone with favourable associations about Harper will likely pick the prime minister.
"It's this biased or distorted perception . . . that then leads them to conclude, 'OK, this is the better person and this is the one I'm going to vote for."'
None of which means politicians should give up trying to win over undecided voters. Automatic associations can be eclipsed, Gawronski said, if one leader makes a big mistake or another scores a public relations coup.
There are some technical difficulties to be overcome before the research can be applied to public opinion polling . But Gawronski said it could eventually make it easier for pollsters to predict how the undecided will ultimately vote and, consequently, to predict the outcome of elections with greater accuracy.
He said some researchers in the United States are already using automatic association tests to determine why undecided voters seem to be flocking to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, rather than Democrat Barack Obama. The results could prove controversial.
While there is no data as yet to prove it, Gawronski said there is anecdotal evidence that many Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of an African-American president.
And in past automatic association tests, he said even people who consciously express "strong egalitarian convictions" have sometimes betrayed unconscious bias against African-Americans.