I just had a wonderful week’s vacation. I did a lot of reading for fun. Lots of spacey, sci-fi stuff. (I love to go far, far away… either in time or space). In one novel I read (2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson) a phrase stopped me cold. I had to dog-ear the page.
Reason can’t work without emotion. People cut off from their emotions can’t decide.
So, ok, this is fiction. But some real-world research backs it up.
An article in the MIT Technology Review is an interview with neuroscientist Antonio Demasio. He found that “consciousness… emerges from emotions and feelings.”
Demasio studied patients with brain lesions that made them unable to experience emotions. Though they had no other impairment, he found they were unable to make good decisions.
Emotions begin with basic physiological changes, like our heart rate or facial expressions. Then the brain picks up on these changes and, based on learned associations, interprets them as emotions. We associate these emotions with their triggers and with the outcomes of our past decisions. You’ve experienced this yourself, when faced with a choice that to your head seems right – but your gut screams “NO!”.
As fundraisers, we know to focus on emotions when trying to reach donors and prospective donors. It’s easy to think marshalling a list of logical reasons to give would be most persuasive. We know that’s not the case. Emotions rule.
Here’s what really struck me. Emotions are not just the better way to move people to action. Without emotion, we find it hard to act at all.
So if your goal is to move people to action, then you’d better work at triggering emotions. You’ll need to reach people in their guts before they’ll reach into their wallets.