Stalin, Mother Teresa, and Rob Portman: What do they have in common?

Rob Portman, Republican senator from Ohio and one-time contender for Romney’s would-be VP slot, announced on Friday that he has reversed his very public stance against gay marriage. …

According to Portman, it can all be credited to his son, Will — an openly gay 21-year-old man who came out of the closet to his conservative father two years ago.

This seems very similar to other political idiosyncrasies that we’ve seen in the past when there are family members involved. …

However, considering what we know about social psychology, it’s fairly short-sighted to assume that these political about-faces are always the conscious result of these intentionally selfish motives. More likely, they are actually the result of a common psychological phenomenon that impacts all of our decisions — the identifiable victim effect. [cont.]

Melanie Tannenbau, Scientific American