Evolution may work against the candidates in tonight's debate | Michigan Radio
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Evolution may work against the candidates in tonight's debate

Sep 16, 2015

 

Credit flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The second Republican presidential debate happens tonight at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry recently dropped out of the race, which still leaves 16 candidates being squeezed into a two-tier debate.

The top 11 get CNN's prime-time debate, and the rest will make do with the so-called “JV” or “happy hour” debate televised earlier in the evening.

With 16 candidates, one might think all that competition might sharpen the candidates, encourage them to be at the top of their game.

According to Arend Hintze, one might want to think again.

Hintze is an assistant professor at Michigan State University, where he studies the evolution of behavior and intelligence. His new study in the current issue of Scientific Reports looks at the effects of competition.

“You have to have some level of competition, otherwise evolution wouldn’t work. That’s kind of obvious,” Hintze says.

He says as the level of competition rises, the focus of important evolutionary traits shifts.

“Instead of making rational decisions and making good choices, they actually evolve to become quick decision-makers, which actually have a poor outcome in the quality of their judgment,” he says.

Hintze’s findings suggest that the fierce level of competition among the Republican candidates will hinder their ability to make informed and thoughtful decisions.

“The answers and the thoughts and everything that they are communicating is more influenced by the competition among the candidates rather than by thorough thinking,” he says.

Hintze says this problem could be remedied to some degree through coaching and preparation among the individual candidates, but this kind of high-visibility debate inherently places the candidates on the spot and forces them to make quick judgments.

“I actually think they are going to make snap decisions and very irrational choices in the end,” Hintze says.

-Ryan Grimes, Stateside