If you are not distracted by urban riots and Mideast crazies, you may have noticed that the political season is upon us. Pretty soon there will be a dozen or more Presidential hopefuls trying to grab the spotlight in the nightly news and omnipresent social media. Predictably, all will parrot familiar phrases that encapsulate their plans and platforms. But their campaign managers seem to be unfamiliar with a psychological phenomenon called semantic satiation.
This arcane term expresses a simple and well-known effect in which constant repetition of a term reduces it to meaningless jibberjabber in the ears of the listeners. Try it yourself. Say any familiar phrase over and over again quickly. Its meaning will disintegrate as you speak. The effect is supposed to be temporary, but only if the repetition stops.
So, endless repetitions of Republicans saying “no new taxes” and Democrats saying “income inequality” will shortly have no useful impact as the meaning just fades away. At least that is my prediction. What will be left of most campaign rhetoric? In most cases, certainly not concrete plans for the future by which we voters could make a sensible selection. I hope I am wrong.