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KPCC's VoterGamePlan: Efficiency expert Charles Duhigg explains why voting is like getting married




Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize winning reporter for The New York Times and author of
Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize winning reporter for The New York Times and author of "Smarter Better Faster," a book about being productive
Charles Duhigg

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KPCC's Voter Game Plan is our way of saying, "We feel your pain, and we're here to help you through this election." And one of the things we've been saying over and over is that we want to help you make a plan for dealing with the election - everything from figuring out the props, measures, and candidates on the ballot to finding your polling place - because making a plan increases your chance of getting it done.

How do we know this? Because we talked with Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for The New York Times and the author of "Smarter Better Faster," a book about being productive.

"You've captured something," Duhigg told me, "that social scientists have been studying for a really long time, which is How do we increase voter turnout." And they found some simple things they could do to get people to vote. After calling people and asking if people were going to vote (people always say yes), they'd ask what time of day people were going to vote. If they could answer that, they were much more likely to vote.

"There's something about just coming up with a plan in your head, and what they've discovered is that we basically try to look for evidence around us as to whether we're committed to something, including what we say to strangers. And so when we come up with a little bit of a plan in our mind, it gives us a framework for actually acting on it."

And here's where marriage comes in. Duhigg says there's also a social contract involved. "We want to fulfill this mental picture that we have of ourselves. If you're trying to lose weight, if you tell someone that you're trying to lose weight, it's more likely that you'll eat less. And the reason is, first of all, a little social responsibility. Someone's keeping tabs on us how the diet's going - or who did you vote for."

A registered voter casts a ballot in early voting at the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk on Oct 14, 2016.
A registered voter casts a ballot in early voting at the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk on Oct 14, 2016.
Sandra Oshiro/KPCC

"But equally strong or secondarily," Duhigg says, "When I say something to someone else, I'm creating a picture in my mind of the person that I want to be."

And that, Charles agrees, is why we get married in front of family and friends.

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that overturned California's same-sex marriage ban, became the first gay couple to wed in Los Angeles since 2008 on Friday at City Hall. Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiated the ceremony.
Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that overturned California's same-sex marriage ban, became the first gay couple to wed in Los Angeles since 2008 on Friday at City Hall. Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiated the ceremony.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

And by the way, Duhigg says when researchers told people that they were going to tell their neighbors whether they voted or not, voter turnout went WAY up.