"The enemy is fear. We think it is hate;

but, it is fear." 

Gandhi

This week, there was a lot of press and debate about emotions that drive major decisions in people's lives and in the history of countries. Here are just a few headlines.

I did my own research to understand what people around the world are feeling this week. Australians have one more week before elections, and no clear favourite. People in UK woke up to the news of Brexit vote. US is recovering from Orlando shooting and heading for the last four months of Presidential race. So, how do people feel about the future of their country?

People in UK (n=301, General Population) shared the words of FEAR (28% of all explicitly expressed emotions), SADNESS (22%), JOY (19%) and ANGER (12%).

Here are Top 10 words from UK responders:

Australians (n=296) are not feeling safe either about the future of their country.

Their words are almost identical:

Americans... FEAR tops the charts there too. 

Only in Canada JOY is strong... followed by FEAR.

Canadians share the words of hope and optimism:

Our Emotion Analytics tool can describe 15 different kinds of FEAR: from light Distrust to Nervousness & Stress, to Anxiety & Worry to Horror & Despair. (We can also describe 20 kinds of JOY, but I will leave it for another post.)

Top three shades of FEAR that over 1,000 survey responders pointed to are: Nervousness & Stress (19% of all FEAR), Anxiety & Worry (17%) and Fear of Change (15%). 

Today's article from Scientific American by Julia Shaw of London South Bank University department of Law and Social Sciences, brings a few solid points that explain these strong emotions, and HOW they get manipulated by some public figures.


Point One: Emotions almost always win over reason and expert opinion, particularly the emotion of FEAR. It can cloud memory and common sense.

"The kind of fear-driven political propaganda used by Trump and the Brexiters is called argumentum ad metum , or an ‘appeal to fear.’ This is a logically unsound way of presenting information. This approach tries to argue: "Either P or Q is true. Q is scary. Therefore, P is true." Although this is an invalid argument, making no logical sense, on its surface it can be quite compelling. This is because fear is a powerful motivator, in terms of memory and decision-making."

Point Two: FEAR has a major impact of decision making and literally shrinks our general ability to make good decisions. 

"When we are afraid, or asked to focus on arguments based on fear, we generally shift into something called  peripheral processing. Peripheral processing happens when we form an opinion based on cues that surround an argument, at its periphery. This is the information, like emotion, or the attractiveness of a speaker, that is related to how a message is presented rather than the message itself."
 

I wish I had better survey results to share this week, but I believe it's a very important message to hear. Understanding where human emotions come from and how they rule our lives and our history is essential to finding sustainable solutions to this world's challenges.

(This article was originally posted on LinkedIn on June 30, 2016)

Comment