Monthly Archives: November 2014

Midterm Elections: Cocktail Party Tidbits

By now you’ve likely heard the basic takeaways from Tuesday’s election: Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, as well as picked up more House seats.

Gains are common for a minority party in a president’s second term; but below are four lesser-known facts from the 2014 contest.  Feel free to use them as conversation-starters at your next cocktail party:

1. Only one governor of each party lost incumbency.

2. Women had a great day: Elise Stefanik, age 30, of New York’s 21st will become the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress, Joni Ernst of Iowa will be the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, and Mia Love (UT-4) will be the first black woman from the GOP to serve in the House.  Please note, all these women are Republicans.

3. Men supported the legalization of marijuana more strongly than women–but only slightly more.

4. The new GOP House majority has not been this wide since WWII.  246 GOP seats were last held in 1947 when Pres. Truman was in office.  Republicans had a peak of 270 seats in 1929 under Pres. Herbert Hoover.

Do you think the next Congress will be better or worse than our current one? 

Women Fashion Power

This exhibit at the Design Museum in London gets powerful women, especially those in international politics, to “stand up and say, for the record and posterity, that clothes matter and require (and deserve) thought.”  The article’s author calls this stance unprecedented, and sadly she is right, at least on any scale as official as a  museum’s.

The fact that women can and do use appearance more than men to sway public opinion has been the elephant in the room for a long time, both in America and abroad.

Yet rather than rue the judgement that all women leaders are subject to, we ought to embrace and manipulate this tool  as a competitive advantage, because from shoes to hair to bags to makeup to jewelry, we women have vastly more socially acceptable means of expression than men, and it is worth the tradeoff of waking up earlier than men to get ready.

So, what do you want to tell the world tomorrow?  You don’t even have to say anything…

The Adulthood of Magical Thinking

Our minds have evolved to think “magically” about certain things, particularly by appearance.

In one experiment cited in the article above, students throwing darts at various pictures performed significantly poorer when aiming at a picture of an emotionally favorable object (for example a baby).

We associate images with the object they represent, and what happens to the image can feel like an action against the subject–think of tearing up a picture of someone unpleasant.

Intelligence does little to overcome this gut association.  Alief is the term for an habitual reaction that is at odds with consciously held knowledge. It is why our heart rate increases while watching a car chase on TV, or why we wince at eating bug-shaped candy.  It is easy to appreciate how and why these instincts evolved into our psychology–these impulses were once very telling for survival.

Illogical subconscious associations can be studied either as a human weakness, or a charming illustrator of evolutionary psychology.  We much prefer the latter.