The Age Of The Brain: The implications for PR

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An examination of how some of the latest research in neuroscience could impact on public relations

An examination of how some of the latest research in neuroscience could impact on public relations

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  • 1. The New Age of the Brain: A PR Perspective Kevin Read, Managing Director Bell Pottinger Business & Brand 23 rd September, 2009
  • 2. Agenda
    • The quick brain guide
    • Rational vs emotional
    • Conventional views
    • The fifth revolution
    • Supportive research
    • Implications for PR and Marketing
  • 3. The Quick Brain Guide
  • 4. Nervous System
  • 5.  
  • 6.  
  • 7.  
  • 8. Rational vs Emotional
  • 9. Plato’s Chariot Plato describes a Charioteer driving a chariot pulled by two horses. One horse is white and long necked, well bred, well behaved, and runs without a whip. The other is black, short-necked, badly bred, and troublesome. (Phaedrus)
  • 10. The Donkey Paradox According to this medieval paradox, the donkey is located exactly halfway between two equally attractive piles of hay. Unable to choose one over the other, he fails to make up his mind and starves to death.
  • 11. The Marshmallow Test In the 1960s, a group of four-year olds were given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait and others could not. The researchers then followed the progress of each child into adolescence, and demonstrated that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (via parents and teacher surveys) They scored an average of 210 points higher on the US scholastic aptitude test.
  • 12. Conventional Wisdom
  • 13. Rationalism
    • Kant – only do what you can rationally believe others would do in the same situation
    • Piaget and Kohlberg – morality is developed in children through ever higher degrees of intellectual refinement and capacity
    • Moral positions are something we pick up from the world around us – they are ‘active reconstructions of experience’
  • 14. Left:Right
  • 15. Social Intelligence
    • Daniel Goleman
      • ability to empathise with people and help them feel comfortable and ultimately to get social situations to work
  • 16. The Fifth Revolution
  • 17. Francis Crick
    • “ Human beings are essentially a bag of neurons”
  • 18. The Fifth Revolution
    • “ In 10-20 year time you will see knowledge about the brain that will have enormous practical impacts, probably in ways we cannot imagine now”
    • Mark Hauser
  • 19. The Importance Of The Brain
    • “ We are sliding toward what you might call neurocentrism where the very essence of what to be human is located in the brain, and what is in your brain determines who you are
    • “ It is time to bring the discussion out of the specialists’ domain, and to acknowledge we are all tumbling headlong into the age of the brain.”
    Lone Frank
  • 20. Jonathan Cohen and Joshua Greene
    • Science (2001) – showed when personal decision are considered the emotion parts of the brain are engaged with the rational – not the case with abstract situations – emotions can overshadow pure logic
  • 21. Contemporary Research
  • 22. Prejudice (i)
    • Joshua Knobe:
      • The Chairman and a fictional story of his impact on the environment
      • When harmed showed – 9/10 suggested harm was intended
      • When positive outcome occurred – 2/10 thought it intended (most thought it was luck)
  • 23. Prejudice (ii)
    • Everyone suffers from prejudice – now possible to show higher level of activity in amygdala with those with higher levels of prejudice
  • 24. Mindful Meditation
    • Monitoring and being attentive to one’s thoughts and feelings – focusing on the positive and dropping those that threaten discomfort
    • Jon Kabatt-Zin (Mass. Medical school)
      • Stressed out employees – one taught meditation, control group not
      • After 8 weeks stress levels lower among those meditating
  • 25. Limiting The Negative
    • Researchers also noted changes within the brain
    • Hypothesis
      • Strengthening of the neuronal circuitries in the left frontal cortex
      • Leading to limitation of signals from the deep lying amygdala, particularly active in the processing of negative emotions such as anxiety
  • 26. Wimbledon Test
    • MRI scan – brain activity – when shown a film losing Wimbledon finalist – packed with negative emotion
    • Then asked to consider the pain of the losing millionaire tennis player
    • You see a dramatic drop in the level of brain activity in the amygdala (part of the limbic system) – typically involved in managing the bodies stress responses
    • In turn saw a drop in the level of cortisol released into the bloodstream
  • 27. Emotions
    • Emotions affect our choices to a significant degree and thus our analysis of information and of the world around us
    • Tom Johnstone
    • Bottom-up – emotional areas sent messagaes to higher cognitive areas
    • Top down – the relationship is more like an internal tug-of-war
  • 28. Moral Biology
    • Damasio – Descartes Error – showed (via patient Elliot) that despite regular intelligence struggled to make real world decisions – due to damage to cerebral cortex (ventromedial prefrontal cortex)
    • In other words emotions were required to make everyday – so called rational decisions
    • Emotions are needed for certain
    • everyday judgements
  • 29. Happiness
    • “ An ability that can be trained and developed and shaped”
    • Richard Davidson
  • 30. Emotions As Patterns
    • “ Pain, anger, jealousy and hopelessness are just particular patterns of activity in the labyrinth of our brains”
    • Lone Frank
  • 31. Plasticity
    • Our personality is far more malleable than previously thought – we are moving toward fluid sense of self
  • 32. Learning: Mirror Neurones
    • Brain cells that allow us to mirror others
      • Assist with an action
      • Are active when we see someone else carry out an action (provide similar physiological reactions)
    • “ I predict that mirror neurones will do for psychology what DNA did for biology”
    • Viljanar Ramachandran
  • 33. Implications For PR
  • 34. Reputation
    • What You Say:
    • Not just rational, words and pictures, be aware of
    • the tugs of war
    • What You Do:
    • Motives will always include emotional elements,
    • humans post-rationalise
    • What others Say About You:
    • Prejudice always exist – just in different degrees, but it
    • can be influenced – do not give up on the antis
  • 35. Listening
    • We seek patterns – and immediately start to order
    • By acknowledging we show we have heard and also create distinct neural patterns (mirroring)
  • 36. Narratives
    • Strong willingness to accept negative rather than positive perspectives – need to look at framing via a solvable problem
    • Need to include emotional stimulus
    • Look to consider how to stimulate ‘mirror neurone’ reactions (nb use of case studies)
  • 37. Engagement
    • Come to expect emotional responses
    • Strongest views will be reinforced by emotions
    • Neutralising powerful views requires the need to set up countervailing emotional arguments
    • Seeking a commitment seems to create a powerful emotional bond – that can be difficult to break
  • 38. Persuasion
    • Human brain is highly adaptive (plasticity)
    • Tough decisions will often have an underlying emotional dimensions (drawn from evolutionary adaption)
    • The public barrister will seek to use emotional appeals as well as rational arguments
    • Changes in opinion can occur following the internal tug of war in the brain
    • With growing knowledge of the brain and its function – people will increasingly have a stronger sense of both self – and responsibility for their own decisions
  • 39. Neuro PR
    • Nascent field – emerging research centres
    • Need to rethink how our sense of self overlays with our growing understanding of the brain and its functions
    • Many observations in social psychology may have biological explanations
    • Marketers and advertising agency are beginning to harness the learnings – time has come for PR to decide how it can use this knowledge to refine its core approaches
  • 40. Contact