Saturday, April 20, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 3


  Did you know that there are certain groups who purposely use our brain structure to influence our thinking and behavior?  Pretty scary, right?  Let me explore with you the world of neuromarketing.
     As you know, marketers – whether they are trying to sell you products via commercial advertisements or people promoting certain ideas (on social media or on public platforms) – want you to act in a certain way.  If they show you a bottle of ketchup, they want you to buy their brand.  If they post a biased article, they want you to support their cause.  If they repeatedly say certain untruths in a public forum, they want you to believe them and work to keep them in power.
     Here’s how it works:  the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of the brain.  If you remember last week’s lecture, this is the part that is involved in survival and instinct.  It wants to avoid pain.  Interestingly, it also is responsible for making many of our decisions.  Neuromarketers purposely aim their message at this part of the brain.
     And how do they do this?  First, they realize that the reptilian brain is reached best through strong emotions.  The limbic system, processor of emotions, acts as the doorway to the reptilian brain.  Then, neuromarketers target the reptilian brain in seven ways:
  • They tap into your pain points – those areas which cause you pain, whether through comparison with others or such survival instincts as hunger or desire for sex (yes, that’s why the voluptuous woman is draped over the hood in the sports car commercial)
  • They appeal to your innate selfishness – they will talk directly to “you” in the message
  • They will use contrast – such as showing the situation which causes pain and their solution which eases the pain (think of teeth-whitening commercials)
  • They emphasize the value of their message – they demonstrate how their message has worked in the past for others, and will work for you
  • They focus on the beginning and end of their messaging – since the reptilian brain tends not to focus on details, they make sure the beginnings and ends pack the most punch
  • They use a visual metaphor – they know that the optic nerve goes directly to the reptilian brain, making it more visual than verbal 
  • They strike an emotional chord – they know that keeping the emotions involved will tend to circumvent any involvement by the neocortex, or rational, brain; interestingly, the reptilian brain tends to be more activated by negative than positive emotions

   So what can we do to keep from becoming manipulated by these forces?  More on that next week.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 2


     Welcome to Biology and the Brain 101, class.  Sit yourself down and learn about how emotions affect behavior.
     In the 1960s, neuroscientist Paul MacLean put out the theory that the human brain is comprised of three parts, encompassing one another like Russian nesting dolls.  The innermost part is the reptilian brain, which is enclosed by the limbic system, which is then surrounded by the neomammalian brain, or neocortex.
     Each part of the brain has its own function.  For example, the neocortex is the section involved in higher-order thinking processes, such as language, planning, perception, and abstraction.  The limbic system houses such structures as the amygdala, the hippocampus, and hypothalamus, which are involved in memory, emotion, and motivation.  And finally, the reptilian brain is involved in instinctual behavior such as survival, territoriality, aggression, and dominance.
     And what does this have to do with the encounter with my friend which I wrote about last week?
     Here’s my theory:  News media and other groups (whether in print, on TV, or in social media) sometimes purposely use our brain structure to affect our emotional response and then our behavior. 
     Next week, class, we’re going to delve into the wild world of neuromarketing.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool

     I was talking with a friendly acquaintance the other day when, in the midst of our pleasantries, she erupted into a diatribe about a new law in a distant state that alarmed her and how certain groups are trying to reduce morality in our country and so on.  I had not heard about this new law, or about how these groups were trying to take over our country, and repeatedly said so.  I knew that my friend watched a very conservative cable news channel and wondered if this was the source of her information, and whether this information was even true.  

     Being an empath, I was bombarded by her anger and outrage.  I was also struck by the deep feeling of fear in her as well.  It took me a long time to get over the emotional punch of our encounter.

     Which brought me to a thought – do news media and other public voices – whether in print, on TV, or on social networks – purposely appeal to one’s emotions first?  And if so, to what purpose?
     And the search for answers brought me to explore what brains and reptiles have in common.  More on this next week.
(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

An Uplifting Quote for Our Times

     Sometimes I read the news and just want to hang my head and cry.  I feel so powerless, you know?  But I ran across a quote from 1932 which I believe applies to today.  It's from Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, or higher decency, of purer purpose.
     Well, if we could steer ourselves out of the Great Depression, we can steer ourselves out of this depressing time of tribalism, ethnic hatred, injustice, greed, narcissism, ecological disaster, and so on.  Let's keep our head up high, hold on to our power, and work for that better world.

     Keep on keeping on.  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Some Thoughts for the Spring Equinox

     It is the time of the spring equinox, when night and day are equal.  Readers of this blog know that one of the central themes of The Gemini Bond  is that in order to be ready to be joined with our Twin Soul, we need to balance the masculine and feminine aspects within ourselves first.  Here are some quotes which illustrate this:
Each one of us needs to discover the proper balance between the masculine and feminine energies, between the active and the receptive.  (Ravi Ravindra)
There is a collective force rising up on the earth today, an energy of the reborn feminine... This is a time of monumental shift, from the male dominance of human consciousness back to a balanced relationship between masculine and feminine. (Marianne Williamson)
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting—force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals—or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.  (Abdu'l-Bahá )
     We all have work to do -- within ourselves, within our families and communities, and within our world -- to balance the masculine and feminine.  Let's dedicate ourselves to this greater goal.  

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Another Terrific Book from a Master

     We now call to order another meeting of the Deng Ming-Dao fan club (hear! hear!).  I picked up another one of his books, beautifully designed and thoughtfully presented, as all his books are.  It is The Wisdom of the Tao: Ancient Stories that Delight, Inform, and Inspire.  What a wonderful resource!

     If you aren't interested in investing in all sorts of esoteric and expensive Taoist tomes, this book might be for you.  It gleans pithy stories from various sources -- the writings of Liezi, Zhuangzi, the I Ching, historical records, folktales, and various other Taoist classics.  Each story is one or two pages long and is presented in easy, modern language.  My only regret is that Deng did not add any commentary to some of the more opaque stories.  Some of them required extra pondering, but they were worth the thought.

     If you are interested in exploring more of the Taoist tradition, this book is for you.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Pearl of a Book, Part 2

     Last week I was lauding a recent find, 1,001 Pearls of Life-Changing Wisdom: Insight on Identity, Truth, and Success by Elizabeth Venstra.  One of the great things about this book is the wide range of topics that are covered.  Another great thing is how within each topic, Venstra offers quotes that may seemingly contradict each other.

     Here's an example:
I'm finally ready to won my own power, to say "This is who I am."  If you like it, you like it.  And if you don't, you don't.  So watch out, I'm gonna fly.   (Oprah Winfrey)
We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.  (Sheldon B. Kopp)
     Live with these quotes for a bit, and you'll see that they are not 'either-or', but' both-and' in terms of addressing the truth of personal power.   Wonderful!