Friday, December 28, 2007

Think like Paul tip #1--don't use your emotions to think

Emotions are a piece of evolutionary luggage that served as an instinctive guide to help humans survive in an often dangerous world. The dangers of that world were often real. Fear, for example, is a way to keep from falling prey to a predator. If I am fearful of sharks I am going to treat possible interactions with sharks with a healthy dose of fear and respect. I will probably be more weary of my actions in areas where there is even a remote possibility of encountering a shark than I would had I not that fear. For example I may choose to not swim in the ocean because of my fear of sharks even though the probability of being attacked by one is incredibly small. I don't personally have a very strong fear of sharks, but I do have one. I find myself fighting my fear of sharks when I swim in the ocean. If I were to be rationally fearful of the dangers that are most probable I should probably be more fearful of rip currents and drowning.
I consider myself a person who is guided mostly by logic and reason, more so than most people.
Yet, I find myself acting irrationally because of my emotions. I recognize this and because of that, I can overcome my fears. I use logic and probability to overcome my fears.
I have trained myself to consider communications that strike an emotional chord as suspicious. If you hear things that scare you, make you angry, or make you feel good there's a strong chance that the person who wrote that message intended for you to feel that way.
Consider advertising. If you were trying to advertise a product, wouldn't you want to create good emotions to go with your product? How many product advertisements can you name that make you angry? The only ones I can think of are ones that do are from banks, and that's because I know that the purpose of most credit card advertisement is to make people more comfortable with living in debt.
Advertisements that are meant to anger me are usually political ads. Towards the end of an election you always hear the real dirt on the flaws of the candidates. I think the thought behind those ads is to anger voters into voting against a candidate. This is the art of Rhetoric--using the emotions attached to language to evoke an irrational response to a message.
When you act on emotions created by a message, you're really complying to the will of the creator of that message. You are allowing yourself to be used by someone else. Most people allow themselves to be manipulated like this every day and have no idea that it occurs.
If you can recognize this pattern you can keep control over your actions. I personally consider everything that evokes an emotion as suspicious. Consider the sources and consider their reasons for evoking those emotions. You can then question what they want from you and possibly conclude why.

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