Voters have no reason to act rationally.

So, if we’re emotionally attached to a belief, what could make us change our minds? Well, we do tend to shift our beliefs when they appear to do us direct harm, such as when they cause us to suffer a financial loss. Ultimately, the only time we’re forced to act rationally is when our personal interests are on the line.

For instance, say you have a shop and personally believe you should only sell goods to people of a specific religion or political view. You might feel good since you can abide by your emotional beliefs – but simultaneously, you’re losing out on loads of potential customers. As soon as these lost customers start to seriously affect your bottom line, you’ll likely reconsider your beliefs, or at least their influence on your business practices.

The problem is that, during an election, voters have little reason to think that how they vote will have an impact on their actual lives. In most democracies, millions of people vote, and any given vote is of little importance. In fact, even when elections come down to the wire and require recounts, as happened in Florida in the 2000 US presidential election, the chances of a single vote changing the outcome are basically nil.

So, since there’s virtually no reason to think that our individual votes will change anything, there’s also no reason to behave rationally. After all, if the only thing that can force us to change our beliefs is the threat of personal harm, and if we don’t see such a danger as being connected to voting, then there’s no reason to change our beliefs when it comes to electoral politics. As a result, people will continue to vote for whatever politician or party is closest to their emotionally determined beliefs.

In other words, there’s no reason for people to vote rationally; instead, it’s much more comfortable for people to stick to their biases or emotions. Understanding this reality is essential since our entire democratic system is based on the assumption that rational voters are in the majority.

Radio Lab: One Vote

Come election season, it’s easy to get cynical. Why cast a ballot if your single measly vote can’t possibly change anything?

In our first-ever election special, we set off to find a single vote that made a difference. We venture from the biggest election on the planet – where polling officials must brave a lion-inhabited forest to collect the vote of an ascetic temple priest – to the smallest election on the planet – where there are no polling officials, only kitty cats wearing nametags. Along the way, we meet a too-trusting advice columnist, a Texan Emperor, and a passive-aggressive mom who helped change American democracy forever.

Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16

challenging the tiresome stereotype of American kids as indolent narcissists whose brains have been addled by smartphones. They offer an inspiring example of thoughtful, eloquent protest.

.. when it comes to electing lawmakers whose decisions about gun control and other issues affect their lives, these high schoolers lack any real power.

.. The federal voting age in the United States should be lowered from 18 to 16.

.. it is important to distinguish between what psychologists call “cold” and “hot” cognition.

.. Cold cognitive abilities are those we use when we are in a calm situation, when we are by ourselves and have time to deliberate and when the most important skill is the ability to reason logically with facts. Voting is a good example of this sort of situation.

.. Studies of cold cognition have shown that the skills necessary to make informed decisions are firmly in place by 16.

.. Hot cognitive abilities are those we rely on to make good decisions when we are emotionally aroused, in groups or in a hurry.

.. self-regulation, which enables you to control your emotions, withstand pressure from others, resist temptation and check your impulses.

.. cold cognitive abilities, self-regulation does not mature until about age 22

..  Consider the dozen or so countries like Argentina, Austria, Brazil and Nicaragua that allow people to vote at 16 in national, state or local elections. In such countries, voter turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds is significantly higher than it is among older young adults.

.. people between 18 and 24 have the lowest voter turnout of any age group in the United States

.. the United States lowered the federal voting age was in 1971, when it went from 21 to 18. In that instance, the main motivating force was outrage over the fact that 18-year-olds could be sent to fight in Vietnam but could not vote.

.. The proposal to lower the voting age to 16 is motivated by today’s outrage that those most vulnerable to school shootings have no say in how such atrocities are best prevented.