Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How we are motivated

Drop the 'e' in emotion and you've got motion.  Add a few letters and you've got motivated.  Any way you look at it, emotions and motivation are closely related. And they should be because they're all about motivating action. 

A few weeks ago I read Drew Westen's "The Political Brain" which argues that the way to people's votes (which in some sense is a way to get people to act) is through their emotions.  Faulting the Democratic Party's logic of fact-based reasoning he writes, in the lead up to the election that got President Obama elected, that elections are won by telling compelling stories that engage people's hearts, not their logical minds.

Transferred to thinking about how we can create a more sustainable future, we need to work even harder to create compelling, emotional images of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I still remember "The Day After"--a post-apocalyptic film about what happens after a nuclear exchange.  Presented on TV during the height of the Cold War, these horrible images seemed to motivate even more people to urge our politicians to shift us from the brink.  I think we need more films like this.  Realistic ones, not those where the Earth freezes over in hours, but ones that engage our senses and force us to think about choices.  Fear motivates us all.

We also need create positive emotions and positive images.  There ARE ways to engineer softer landings and we need to show folks that these ARE possible; if only we work.  But, if Westen is correct, data alone will not be the solution to our problems; vibrant imagery that captures our senses will.

Discussion Questions
What captures your senses?  What sorts of books, films, discussions do you think can help nudge us to a better future?

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