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18 Jul 2019

JRC analyses what really drives political decision-making

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published a report on "Understanding our political nature". The document was released on 17 July 2019 and analyses how and why emotions, values, identity and reason affect how we think, talk and take political decisions, thus highlighting the need for evidence-informed policymaking as a precondition for well-functioning democracies.

The report looks at some of the most pressing political issues, such as disinformation, different views on values and identity, and tries to understand the underlying behavioural and social processes. It highlights in particular how our thinking is challenged by today's information environment, which also makes us vulnerable to being misled by disinformation.

The key findings from the report are the following:

  • Misperception and Disinformation: Our thinking skills are challenged by today's information environment and make us vulnerable to disinformation. We need to think more about how we think.
  • Collective Intelligence: Science can help us re-design the way policymakers work together to take better decisions and prevent policy mistakes.
  • Emotions: We can't separate emotion from reason. Better information about citizens' emotions and greater emotional literacy could improve policymaking.
  • Values and Identities drive political behaviour but are not properly understood or debated
  • Framing, Metaphor and Narrative: Facts don't speak for themselves. Framing, metaphors and narratives need to be used responsibly if evidence is to be heard and understood.
  • Trust and Openness: The erosion of trust in experts and in government can only be addressed by greater honesty and public deliberation about interests and values.
  • Evidence-informed policymaking: The principle that policy should be informed by evidence is under serious attack. Politicians, scientists and civil society need to defend this cornerstone of liberal democracy.

There is a chapter dedicated to each key finding which outlines the latest scientific thinking as well as an overview of the possible implications for policymaking. The report also argues that the ways in which values and identity influence political behaviour are not yet properly understood, the JRC has therefore launched a call for experts to work on a state-of-the-science report on values and identity in the political process. This study should lead to the development of a practical analytical framework for policymakers to support their political choices by clarifying the values behind each policy issue and the trade-offs inevitable in the process.

For more information:

JRC - news

JRC Report "Understanding our political nature"

Call for experts

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