A Literacy of the Imagination

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Developing Our Emotive Cognition to Change Behavior #SensoryIntelligence #MindMapping #Junto

It’s an interesting thing to hear people in the marketing, advertising and media world talk about “disruption” as a function of some form of emotional engagement.

When we look beyond attention-grabbing mechanisms, cultural disruption can certainly make a home within sustainable engagement: the mores and inconsistencies we expose call to efforts – whether direct or not – that are adopted by people who are predisposed or predetermined to believe in them. In many respects, this is where and how the social web will likely evolve. But it’s also very important that we look at marketing constructs in a more traditional context to better understand where even the most, or seemingly the most, effective efforts fall entirely flat.

Anti-smoking efforts would be one of them.

I recently traveled through Europe and was reminded on one of my Swiss Air flights that “cigarette-striping” is still a very active practice. You would think that with the type of anti-smoking ads and ad-like objects slapped across cartons, carts and packs that more people would think twice about purchasing cigarettes, or especially reconsider smoking them... But that is clearly not the case.

Now, whether these ads are ineffective or not may have something to do with the fact that those who are peddling the cigarette products themselves are distracting (in a good way), or, maybe it has something to do with the fact that on an airplane, people are not inclined to change behaviors simply because there is no time or real-world environment to create a sustainable means for changing their belief systems. But the real issue remains as to what we are willing to do to make experiences resonant in the context of any situation or environment in order to change behavior now, or at least once we enter a new environment altogether.

Paul Thargard of the University of Waterloo wrote a terrific white paper a few years ago specifically on how cognition meets emotion with respect to how beliefs, desires and feelings function as neural activity (special thanks to Mark Frazier of @openworld for sending this my way...). Thargard’s EMOCON model looks like this:

Developing Our Emotive Cognition to Change Behavior #SensoryIntelligence #MindMapping #Junto
As you can see, there are clear associations between neural or synaptic activity and physical states, both core to the individual and those that exists in the environment around us. Emotions, therefore, are the sum of experiences we undergo, those we share, and the stimuli that may “induce” them. The critical point then is what actually drives us to actually change our behavior.

Arguably, it is the qualia we produce or extract that reside between emotional feelings and bodily states. And around that, are all the nodes and connectors that make experiences translatable and transferable to individuals and groups of people. In other words, there must be active and actionable characteristics ascribed to each and every experience (this also points to the synergies and discrepancies between message, conversation, experience and platform, but that is a topic for another post...).

Developing Our Emotive Cognition to Change Behavior #SensoryIntelligence #MindMapping #Junto

So perhaps a belief system (predicated on the idea that beliefs are things formed around the things we don’t know) is not actually a function of cognition as something previously acquired, empirical or even temporal, but that which is the synthesis of stimulus, emotion, state of being and experience. The belief system then becomes actualized and is supported by those around us — hence, we are given consensus to provide newer or greater context. And of course, if this synthesis is created or extracted, depending on the need of the brand or product, we can build experiences that are resonant, and therefore, sustainable.

In other words, we must not only see the change, we must be the change.

Using an airplane flight as the context for getting people to quit smoking, and putting many logistical elements aside, how might we do this on a more strategic, or an even more tactical, level? (And yes, some of these ideas are outrageous and unreasonable, but that is just the point...)

  • Have the afflicted (people with cancer or lung conditions) fly along with us.
  • Create individual longevity exercises on the plane for those listed as smoker and non-smokers; then group them together through a “live chat”.
  • Use more subtle or distantly related topics to engage in new thought recognition – exercise, artistry, prose, endurance tests, etc.
  • Present “both sides” in various multimedia and collateral – letting the “truth speak for itself”; (the idea here is that there is no real duality or juxtaposition – cigarettes are already bad – hence, no current reaction to what a cigarette product represents).
  • Use incentives like carbon-offsets for cigarette purchases, a “reverse-psychology” of sorts and a means for “relational disruption” (getting us to question surface motives to arrive at ulterior truths)
  • Show clips of Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man and then do a piece on Where Are They Now?


Ok, that last bit is clearly ridiculous, but hopefully you get the point that cultural disruption and behavioral change are not necessarily, nor inextricably, linked. A synthesis requires a lot of creative work and empathic means to make the change really happen.

Thoughts? Reactions? Upheavals?

Developing Our Emotive Cognition to Change Behavior #SensoryIntelligence #MindMapping #Junto
Developing Our Emotive Cognition to Change Behavior #SensoryIntelligence #MindMapping #Junto