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What's Your Bias? - Lee De-Wit ***

We have seen plenty of books on the psychology of decision making and how psychology can give us insights into the way that we misinterpret information or get things wrong, such as Richard Nisbett's Mindware, but this is the first that I have come across that explicitly addresses the psychology of the way we vote.

This is, perhaps, the ideal time to come out with such a book, as there have been so many surprise results in the last few years from the last two British general elections to Brexit and Trump. And there is some interesting material in this slim volume (I got through it on a longish train journey). It's very pleasing also, that Lee De-Wit gives us a good balance between UK and US examples.

Perhaps the most surprising result covered is the discover that the biggest predictor of how we will vote is how open we are to new experiences rather than, say, class or wealth. We also see how traditional party support has changed over time. Other aspects will be more familiar if you've read any popular psychology, such as the impact of confirmation bias. And there's also good coverage of the way social media and targeted internet advertising are changing the playing field.

Although this is an approachable, easy-to-read book, I went away from it a little disappointed, as it seemed just too lightweight - I felt like I was left wanting a lot more. More of the science, more insights and implications. It was a bit like reading a study (with lots of provisos) that gave you the basic facts, but didn't provide much in the way of discussion and conclusions. Even when dealing with social media, for example, we heard a lot about its existence and what was done with out, but little about its measurable impact on voters.

I would still very much recommend reading this book if you are at all interested in politics or what has been happening recently, particularly in light of the changes in social media. But I wish there had been a bit more to it.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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