Emotion vs. Reason?

The next time you structure your communication, is it more important to appeal to emotion or to reason?

Reason_numbersIt turns out that question may be a false dichotomy, because according to neuroscientists people need both emotion and reason in order to make decisions.

A recent BusinessWeek article titled "Why Logic Often Takes a Back Seat" describes how different parts of the brain engage with the decision-making process.  A quote from the article:

…emotions grab people’s attention and motivate them to focus their rational brains on the issue at hand, says Antonio R. Damasio, a University of Iowa College of Medicine neurologist…

If this is true, it threatens the sacred cow known as the "data-driven presentation"; which is based on the assumption that you can simply display a stream of information and people will magically "get it".  Instead, the research points to a different reality, where there needs to be an emotional context to motivate the rational part of the brain in the first place.

How can you test this out for yourself?  Place your rational information within an emotional context by structuring your presentation using a 3-act structure, where Act I engages your audience emotionally and Act II engages them rationally.

By balancing the informational load between emotion and reason, you just might find that you can align your communication approach with our new understanding of the brain, and give your audience the right mix of meaning they need.

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