Monday, July 14, 2008

Do you feel it?

Do emotion and reasoning have much in common? I can't say what most people think, but my impression is that they're often presented as contradictory or unrelated.

This probably isn't saying much that is worthwhile, but in most cases that it comes up emotion and reason should be intimately bound together. You're level of anxiety over touching a poker should have everything to do with whether it's hot. If a woman gets a positive mammogram they'll be understandably upset, but the odds are about 8% that the positive test means she has cancer. 8% is pretty high, but it's still way more likely that she doesn't have it. Completely freaking out about something like that because you think there's a 90% chance you have cancer seems really shitty to me. It's easy to think of other examples about people's silly responses to all sorts of things, from fear of spiders to fear of flying.

But I also think like this when it comes to which team or player you support or which brands you like. I support Roger Federer, but I don't think I should treat this as an immutable fact of life, I want to watch him play cos it's so great to see him play well. My support for Arsenal developed slowly over time (while my dislike for United waned) because they consistently were able to play attractive soccer. Sport is worth watching because of the qualities is has the potential to bring out in people. I don't see the virtue of simply supporting "your team"; what if they suck and they're all assholes? Stop supporting them!

Same deal with brands. Say you hear lots of good things about a Toyota, you like the way it looks and enjoyed the test drive. It's rational to buy one even though you don't have full information of that car or the competitors. The car is great so you "support" Toyota, you tell your friends to buy one and you may even look forward to a new model to buy one day. In the mean time if the brand falls apart because Toyota starts producing terrible cars your loyalty and support for the brand should evaporate. The branding executives want your loyalty to be of the unconditional kind, it'd be great for them. They want you to pick their side in the great Energizer vs. Ever Ready fight.

Liking a team, a band or a film director is the same. It's rational to support them based on some reasonably objective bundle of facts and it's a good rule of thumb about how to allocate attention in the future. But if that bundle of facts changes you should feel differently about them.

Radiohead may have earned your attention for their new experimental album. Give it a try! But it doesn't mean it's not shit.

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