“I’m being logical, damn it!” shouted the CFO in a client company as he slammed his fist on the conference room table. This man of numbers never brought emotions into his decision-making, or so he would have me believe.
Ever since French philosopher Rene Descartes postulated the foundations of modern scientific methodology, emotions have been viewed as a kind of cerebral funhouse mirror that distorts truth.
The irony of that view is that logic can outdo emotions when it comes to producing distorted pictures of reality. In fact, emotions tend to be better in capturing the essence of reality. Consider, for example, intuition. It is an insight derived from emotion, not rationale processes. How would you define emotions? The correct answer makes it clearer why emotions can more faithfully represent reality minds than analysis and reason often does.
Simply defined, emotions are changes in body states. They are comprised of electrochemical responses to a matter that generate changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, adrenalin flow and among other body states. As such, emotions are analogs of reality. Like the a fuel gauge’s needle, emotions move in direct proportion to that which activates their movement..
So how is it that people often distort reality when they are upset? Because they view a matter through a cognitive lens that distorts reality. Any representation of truth can be justified through impeccably drawn analysis and reasoning that nevertheless distorts reality. This accounts for difference between people in a wide spectrum of beliefs ranging from politics and culture to science and religion.Another factor in distortion of reality is the role played by feelings. Contrary to custom, feelings and emotions are not synonymous. Emotions are changes in body states. Feelings represent our interpretation of why body states have changed. Those interpretations turn out to be distortions of reality.
Emotions originate in two places in the brain. The primary source is an organ in the midbrain called the amygdala. This where instinctual emotions, sometime jokingly referred to as the Four Fs arise: fighting, fleeing, feeding and reproducing. The second source is the right prefrontal cortex, which gives rise to cognitive emotions. Road rage arises in the amygdala. The ability to control it arises in the prefrontal cortex.Cognitive emotions turn us from cavemen into civilized human beings. They are the mental tool that gave us to keep raw nature in our behavior in check. So the next time someone blasts you with their horn while giving you the finger, you may want to yell out at them , “Caveman!” Of course if you do that you are behaving like a caveman (or cavewoman). With that bit of neuroanatomy we can now address the issue raised the previous post, the subjective voice in market messaging versus the objective voice.
The subjective voice is rooted in emotions and reflects a right brain bias. It is a voice that gives expression to emotions, instinctual behavior, intuition and it revels on discovery. It conveys a keen sense of the whole picture, the forest if you will, and parses reality more in terms of relationships than categories.
brain-biased objective voice gives expression to rationality, analysis, logic
and a sense of caution. It projects reality more in terms of categories than
relationships. The objective voice expresses its view of reality in linear
fashion with a greater focus on details than on the whole picture.
chart summarizes the definitive properties of subjective and objective voices. Keep
in mind that no one operates exclusively in one voice or another. In fact, because
the right brain is kind of gate keeper to the left brain, to reach even the
most rational, logic-driven, left brain mind requires passage through the right
brain. The right brain is the issuer of landing rights to the left brain,
without which the marketer cannot get a message into the mills of left brain
The young adult brain finds safety in anchoring its worldviews to the detailed, linear, analytic approach to parsing reality that reflects the objective voice. Successful social integration depends on a person’s ability to integrate with a group’s consensus on core issues that define it. The young person must learn and adapt to a group’s social codes, whether a group be for professional or private membership. This is the neuropsychological source of a phenomenon that marketers love: the herd mentality that prominently marks young people’s social behavior.
It is far
easier to divine the group mind underlying her behavior than to do so for
individual minds on a mass basis. This presents marketers a critical challenge
in middle age and older markets because the herd mentality has usually lost
most of its influence by the time people are well into midlife. Further complicating
matters, developmental changes in the brain incline a person toward less black-and-white
certainty about life than he or she experienced as a young adult. A plethora of
disappointments, personal hurts, and abandoned dreams has conditioned the older
adult to accept reality as a game of chance. This increases a person’s skepticism
about when others purport to have the best answers. It also increases the older
person’s confidence in his or her take on matters. The become “more resist to enculturation,” in the words of Abraham Maslow.
To conclude, then, a very big reason that marketing appears by many measures to be less effective now than in the pre-Internet, less media-saturated past has less to do with the Internet and an over-abundance of media than commonly claimed. The mind of the market has changed dramatically toward a more subjective foundation, yet marketers are still overwhelmingly speaking with an objective voice.