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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

What effect will prejudice have at the polling booths?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 10th 2008

obama mccainThe time is coming up where the United States of America is going to choose its next president and commander in chief for the next 4 years. This country has tended to follow a similar voting pattern for a long time with heavily populated areas in the Northeast and West Coast voting democratic while less populated and Southern areas typically voting Republican. Drew Westen, a Psychologist and Political Consultant explores how our emotions and prejudices influence our voting patterns and what we need to be aware of going to the polling booths.

Neuroscientists and Psychologists have been heavily researching our stereotypes on race, gender, and age for the last 20 years. One conclusion they have noticed is that what people talk about on a daily basis in connection with their feelings of race, gender, and age and what they believe and feel deep down are two different perspectives. Through words and images, we ingrain at a very early age from our parents, friends, and media our perspectives about other people. Polls show today that most Americans do not consciously endorse prejudice-based ideology against race, gender, or age. However, at a young age and even today, it's difficult to ignore the images we see on the media of many people of color taken away in handcuffs, of a 300 hundred year history of racism and gender bias, or of messages of senior citizens as not effective in society. These messages seep down into our unconscious layers.

Let's not be fooled. Racism and agism will play a role in the upcoming election. Whether people are aware of it or not is a different story. For us to be more aware, it's important to understand that the messages we learned at a very young age really do affect most of us today even if we consciously hold different thoughts in this moment. So how do we become more aware of these?


For the purposes of this election you can do this exercise. Close your eyes and say the words "black person" to yourself. What image comes up, what words are associated with that image? Then close your eyes and say the words "senior citizen" in your mind and see what image pops up. Whatever image that was is likely what your deeply held beliefs are. Are these in contrast to your consciously held beliefs? This is simply an exercise in raising awareness of what our beliefs are on a deep level so we can know ourselves better and make more informed decisions.

There are many issues on the table in this election besides this and whomever you vote for is entirely a personal choice and is the right one for you, however, it's important to be aware how we might be influenced in our decisions. If you are undecided, might the images you've seen in your mind's eye influence your decision making?

Confuscious, an ancient Chinese philosopher said, "may you live in interesting times" and at this time history in particular, indeed we do.

Please do feel free to comment below with reactions to this blog, thoughts of your own experience, or things you may feel I am missing. It is well known that we all hold wisdom here and your thoughts may help others as well.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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