HolyCoast: Robots Make Us Uncomfortable, and That Could Explain Romney

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Robots Make Us Uncomfortable, and That Could Explain Romney

Interesting theory from The Atlantic:
The GOP front-runner looks just enough like the perfect picture of an American president to make us uncomfortable.

Mitt Romney is the storybook presidential candidate. He's successful, good-looking and a family man, to boot. Yet one of this political season's enduring puzzles has been the former governor's consistent inability to bond with voters. It's been suggested that Romney's robotic persona may be to blame -- and perhaps the analogy isn't far off. Much as people are repulsed and disturbed by automatons that mimic humans closely but imperfectly, Romney inexplicably turns voters off despite looking like the textbook image of an American president. Roboticists call this unsettling effect "the uncanny valley" -- and Romney is stuck deep at the bottom of it.

If the past year's media coverage of Romney tells us anything, it's that the electorate is attempting to reconcile conflicting impressions of the man. Romney is defined by two, now-familiar narratives. One focuses on the candidate's naturally presidential demeanor. The other examines his decidedly unnatural comportment in the presence of ordinary people. For the most part, Team Romney has successfully ignored the tension arising from these contradictory signals. But the style problem is one they'll have to face sooner or later -- particularly if Romney wins the GOP nomination, as he trails Obama on likeability and in fact tends to become less liked the more exposure he gets.
There's more at the link.

I watched some of Romney's victory speech in Florida, and although the message was pretty good, the presentation just makes me cringe. It reminds me of a guy who is telling me what he thinks I want to hear, and is desperately trying to emote the way the speech coach and focus group told him he should. He may be completely sincere, but it just doesn't come off that way. I don't know how you fix that.

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