There is a growing body of research demonstrating that humans are far from the rational thinkers and decision makers that we would like us to believe we are. Research has shown, for example, that our mood even smells can alter how we perceive, interpret, and decide about people and situations. Despite our highly developed cerebral cortex, which is supposed to separate us from animals (along with our thumbs), when it comes to processing our world, we are still driven largely by hard-wired patterns that serve an evolutionary purpose (meaning they used to help us survive).
Exemplary of this new line of research, a recent study found that people were more likely to vote for physically attractive candidates when they are exposed to the idea of disease. The rationale is that attractiveness is associated with robust health and, evolutionarily speaking, having a healthy leader during times of disease will ensure the individual and collective survival of the tribe.
Unfortunately, as I plan to write about in a future blog post, what helped us survive in the past, often doesn’t help us survive–or thrive–in the present.