Chapter

Political Cognition as Social Cognition: Are We All Political Sophisticates?

Darren Schreiber

in The Affect Effect

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2007 | ISBN: 9780226574417
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226574431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226574431.003.0003
Political Cognition as Social Cognition: Are We All Political Sophisticates?

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This chapter, which introduces Aristotle's arguments about human nature and Niccolo Machiavelli's thoughts about how human intelligence developed with the need to be more politically astute than one's rivals, hypothesizes about the neural architecture needed by people to navigate everyday political life. The kinds of political cognition that political scientists usually study, namely, thoughts about values, policies, coalitions, and leaders on the state, national, or international level, have co-opted the mental apparatus evolved for solving the problems of “everyday politics.” The development of the mirror neuron has been a critical early step in the direction of Machiavellian intelligence. The capacities for theory of mind and for social evaluation enable fruitful political cognition in the context of everyday politics. Accounting for the biological foundations of political attitudes can lead to conceptualizations that are richer in their implications for moral thinking and more familiar because they comport with the everyday experience.

Keywords: political cognition; Aristotle; human nature; Niccolo Machiavelli; human intelligence; mirror neuron; Machiavellian intelligence; theory of mind; everyday politics

Chapter.  9642 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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