You are what you choose: The TRAITS model in consuming politics



“Issues don’t matter in presidential campaigns, it’s your brand values that matter. Voters see their issue through that brand and how they judge that issue is seen through the brand.”
-Matthew Dowd

I have cousins who, I believe, have similar personalities. In our youth, brother and sister Pepe and Pilar (not their real names) would include me in their always extraordinary, though sometimes egregious, art events, which at times involved shaving our heads onstage as a statement of defiance to social convention. If you recall, recalcitrance was all the rage in the 90s, when the world was slightly more predictable.

Nowadays, the schism between those who want change and those who prefer continuity is more evident than before.

This is not an opinion piece; it merely aims to explore how and why Pepe and Pilar—both born into a Class-A income family, educated abroad, and have strong advocacies for sustainable development—developed disparate political views despite their common demographics.

In You are What You Choose: The Habits of Mind that Really Determine How We Make Decisions, Scott De Marchi and James Hamilton developed an instrument called TRAITS which uses six decision-making qualities to explain why people make certain choices. The degree to which a respondent exhibits a particular trait is determined from a scale of +5 to -5. I asked my cousins to answer the 30 survey questions. Here are the results:

Time “measures whether you’re willing to pay a cost now for gratification in the future.” Pepe and Pilar scored +1 in this trait, both leaning towards valuing the future rather than ignoring it.

Risk “measures how you evaluate dangers and payoffs inherent in many decisions.” Pilar scored -5 and Pepe -3, which makes them more risk averse than acceptant.

Altruism pertains to “how strongly people agree about paying a price for doing the right thing.” Pilar (-3) and Pepe (+3) are on opposing ends with the former more self-concerned and the latter more other-concerned.

Information measures how “actively [they]seek out data as a tool that will help with decision-making.” Pilar (-1) is more info costly than Pepe (+3), an info geek.

The meTootrait explains brand choice and “how others react to that choice.” Pilar (-1) is more individualistic than Pepe (+3) who is other-regarding.

Finally, Stickiness, also called loyalty, refers to how “some consumers consider many options when they buy a product . . . [vis-à-vis those who] stick with the same products.” Pilar (-1) is slightly more independent than Pepe (+1) who is loyal.

Branding in politics: Change vs continuity
Pilar is an advocate of change while Pepe voted for continuity. When asked why, Pilar showed me an Osho tarot card of The Rebel, which read: “Whether he is wealthy or poor, [he]is really an emperor because he has broken the chains of society’s repressive conditioning and opinions . . . [He] challenges us to be courageous enough to take responsibility for who we are and to live our truth.”

Apart from the self-explanatory traits of Time, meToo, and Stickiness, their differences in Risk, Altruism, and Information warrant further discussion. Due to her perception of continuity being riskier than change, Pilar is more risk averse than Pepe. On the other hand, Pepe is opposed to change altogether. Pilar is more self-concerned than Pepe under altruism, because she accepts that change comes at a price in order to solve the root cause of the problem; while Pepe finds issue in the problem-solving process. Under Information-seeking, a question in which they differed was whether they stuck to a favorite flavor of ice cream or tried others. Pilar always chose her favorite while Pepe liked to try different flavors, which is probably why she favors the efficiency of getting the job done, while he prefers exploring other options. Pepe posted recently: “This is the KILL LIST. Shocking how there’s no outrage locally or internationally about Dugong’s support for vigilantism. Do his fanatics really think this will end well? So sad for my country. 119 as of today. That’s more than 14 people killed without due process per day this week alone.”

“An ant, viewed as a behaving system, is quite simple. The apparent complexity of its behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which it finds itself.”
– Herbert Simon

Paz Esperanza Tesoro-Poblador is a faculty member of the Marketing and Advertising Management Department of De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. She has a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management, and is currently taking her Doctorate in Business Administration. Her fields of interest are sustainable development, poverty alleviation, culture and heritage, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.


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