Who is the boss in our brain?


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During the latest Perspectivity event on November the 7th, Victor Lamme, a neuroscientist from the University of Amsterdam, took us on a journey into our brains. We explored the question of who the boss in our brain really is.

(Ir)rational Decisions
Victor explained that we often have a false idea of what makes us decide something. “Rational arguments don’t work. It’s not about the argument you give, it’s about the feeling it provokes. If you want to convince other people you have to play their feelings and use the power of the unconscious influence”.

Transparancy = Worst Idea
An example of this is trust. Trust comes naturally: we instinctively trust and cooperate. It is part of our natural survival instinct. But trust is an emotion, not “a calculated risk”. If we approach it rationally, we might think that being transparent and honest improves this trust but providing data might not actually be the best way to increase trust. By giving information, you share the good and the bad things. However, people tend to focus on the negative and forget the positive. That’s why Victor Lamme says: Transparancy is the worst idea of the last 20 years.

Influencing Behaviour
You trust someone if you both benefit from the situation. Trust is based on greed, on getting better from it and on being rewarded. The dopamine rush this creates is the most powerful reinforcer of behaviour ever found. Fear works as a double-edged sword’you are going to solve people’s fear, but if it makes them uncertain they’ll run away. Fear of missing out influences people’s behaviour. There is also the social aspect. Our brain mirrors the actions of others. You can provide yourself with a bit of dopamine, making us follow the crowd. If we would like to influence people’s behaviour, these are the neural buttons we need to push: reward, fear & social environment .

Predicting Behaviour
He further explained that neural activity is the best predictor of behaviour.
“Motivations and intentions do not lead our choices. There’s no causal line between motivations and intentions and our actions. They are caused by our brain. What people say they will do says nothing about what they will actually do, neural activity is a much better predictor of behavior.”

In an interactive session we looked for ways to push these buttons for social impact within Perspectivity.