Monday, April 6, 2009

How to Improve Political Knowledge

So I'm reading this study for my graduate seminar -- this week, health comm -- and the study tries to explain through evolutionary psychology why people use tanning beds or tan excessively even when they know it's bad for 'em.

The reason? A tan is an "aesthetic cue" for "the mating game."

The authors argue that it's not what you know that matters, at least for behaviors like tanning or reckless driving, it's how we've evolved to perceive certain behaviors. If they're tied to mating, we'll do them regardless. Young males see reckless driving as "sexual signaling."

Okay, yeah, fun and all that, but what's it got to do with political knowledge?

We gotta make political knowledge sexy, or at least find a way to integrate mating into what people know about politics and public affairs. Maybe no one can mate unless they pass a 10-item political knowledge test? Okay, that's not gonna happen, and to be honest I see no evolutionary advantage to being able to name your congressional representative or knowing which branch of government is charged with interpreting the constitution, so I guess this idea is a wash.

In other words, being a policy wonk ain't gonna get ya any action.

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