By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Early voting is through the roof this year. Minnesota and Wisconsin are already setting records.

In Minnesota, nearly 1.2 million ballots are already in.

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But when it comes to politics – between the constant stream of news, ads, social media feeds, and real-life conversations, how do we make sense of it all? How do we make a decision for who to vote for?

“That’s a complicated question” said Augsburg Psychology Professor Bridget Robinson-Riegler “We’re basically cognitively lazy as people.”

So to save our brains the trouble, St. Thomas Assistant Professor of Emerging Media April Eichmeier says we use cognitive shortcuts, like party affiliation.

“You can say that’s who I am so that’s how I vote,” said Eichmeier.

Likeability is another shortcut. The question of “would that person like people like me?” is a deciding factor for some, said Eichmeier.

Robinson-Riegler says those shortcuts typically work but can lead to confirmation bias.

“All you do is you go to the news that supports your view,” said Robinson-Riegler.

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Family, friends, news and endorsements can influence us, but what about ads?

“They find negative ads don’t actually influence outcomes,” said Robinson-Riegler.

So how can we filter out false claims, conspiracies, misinformation, and downright lies?

“I don’t think that we do,” said Robinson-Riegler.

“We probably we hold on and we update to the extent that we can,” said Eichmeier.

If it’s a negative ad or a nasty rumor, our brains hold on to that. We remember negative information more than positive things.

“So even if it’s inaccurate, there’s research that’s shown the more we hear it regardless of even if we know it’s true or not, the more likely we are to have it influence our behavior,” said Robinson-Riegler

And however we come to those decisions, once we make them, they stick.

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“We do not like to change our minds,” said Robinson-Riegler.

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Erin Hassanzadeh