"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Creating Passionate Users: Think... or be afraid

Creating Passionate Users: Think... or be afraid:

Discussion of how the brain works on short notice.
"You can't be afraid and rational at the same time. Pick one."


"You're about to step into the street when out of the corner of your eye a car appears. There is a gap between when your brain perceives the car and when you are consciously aware of the car and can think about it. That gap could mean the difference between you being flattened by the car and... not. There are simply too many situations where you just don't have time to wait for your cortex to kick in, so your brain has another mechanism for acting without the overhead of involving your cortex first. And even if your cortex did get the news, taking the time to think could get you killed... by the time you come up with a plan, it's too late to execute.

And thousands of years ago, the humans who did NOT stop to think were the ones who stayed alive long enough to... breed. Their "wait, I have to weigh the tradeoffs here" counterparts were clubbed to death, eaten by tigers, and flattened by falling boulders. Darwin won, and here we are stuck with legacy brains.

So how does it pattern to the "Evening News"?
Put on the strong fliter - "if it bleeds it leads"

"It works on people, too, but there's something else to consider... the dark side of the equation. Imagine that you did want someone to be afraid, because you specifically do not want them thinking rationally and logically. What if your goal is to convince them to do something that's not in their best interest? One approach is to make sure that they stay as fearful and anxious as possible, to make it more difficult for them to focus and think rationally. It's a trick that's been used by governments, managers, manipulate family members, and advertisers for ages.

We all need to recognize when someone's doing that to us. And I would start with the television 'if it bleeds it leads' news. Unlike television shows, movies, and video games--which your brain knows aren't real--a brain perceives the news as 'real' and often concludes that things are far more dangerous than they really are, thanks to the dramatic statistic imbalance (reality distortion field) between what is displayed on the news and what is actually happening outside your front door. It's not like you'll ever hear, for example, a nightly new run down of all the people in your city who were NOT in fact killed in a drive-by shooting that day. The 'good news' is usually a 20-second spot at the end about a rescued kitten."

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