Photo/IllutrationA paper that advises LDP Diet members how to avoid gaffes (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Which warning are you more likely to heed? A: Don't lie. B: Don't be a liar.

A psychological experiment revealed that A did practically nothing to stop people from lying, whereas B proved overwhelmingly effective in discouraging them from doing it.

People are apparently more sensitive to being called out for who they are, rather than for what they do, according to "No wa Nanigeni Fukohei" (The brain is unfair for no special reason), the latest publication by neuroscience researcher Yuji Ikegaya.

Ikegaya gives examples of this based on the premise that the key to getting a desired reaction from someone is knowing how to phrase your request or demand.

"Please don't be a traitor" packs a greater punch than "Please don't betray me," Ikegaya says. And when you want someone's sympathy, tell the person, "I want you to be on my side" instead of "Please try to understand my situation."

Regarding the recent spate of gaffes made by politicians, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party recently published a manual for its members to peruse, begging them in effect, "Don't put your foot in your mouth."

The paper goes to great lengths to list blooper-inducing subjects, such as perceptions of history and gender-related issues. It also warns against undue flippancy. In short, it's an extraordinarily detailed "teaching material."

But surely, what is really needed is each legislator's resolve to avoid becoming "the sort of politician who commits verbal blunders." And instead of steering clear of controversial or divisive issues, any politicians worth their salt ought to study the issues and be able to debate them with confidence.

It is the responsibility of every politician to think of the people who need their help and reach out to them with articulate messages.

Nowadays, it no longer feels right to refer to Diet members collectively as "elected representatives of the people." Have their standards really deteriorated? Or could it be that they weren't any better in the past, and that we are only noticing it now because of the ready availability of audio-video recording devices?

One Diet member made news headlines recently by effectively supporting war as a means for reclaiming the disputed Northern Territories.

This individual has been asked to resign from the Diet, but reportedly has no intention of doing so.

He couldn't be hanging on in order to teach his colleagues, "Don't be a legislator like me." Or could he?

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.