The Marriage of Logic and Emotion – utilising Big Data about people’s big feelings
A few years ago, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio conducted an experiment to study people who had damaged the area of the brain where emotions are generated. He discovered that even though these people seemed normal, as a result of the damage to their brain they were now completely unable to feel emotions – and, as a result, they all struggled with making decisions. While we may think that decision-making is led by logic, Damasio’s experiment revealed that the majority of our choices depend on our emotions, and that humans are ultimately driven by feelings.
Big data and emotion
With this in mind, it’s interesting to examine some of the recent cultural events that have centred on decision-making. From Brexit to the US presidential election, emotions have been (and still are) high. Keyboard warriors passionately expressed their views on social media, protests hit the streets here and across the pond, and the concept of ‘fake news’ became a public concern.
This was partly confirmed when Nigel Farage announced in November that the pro-Brexit party were using a data company to support their online campaign. The company, Cambridge Analytica, focus on innovative political marketing that utilises the ‘OCEAN’ model. Ocean, an acronym for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, is used to generate a relatively accurate assessment of members of target markets. This includes their needs, fears and expected behaviours.
Trump's data driven campaign
Alexandre Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica, also revealed that Trump’s campaign took advantage of this form of Big Data to understand how best to ignite the American public’s emotions – and in turn, make them more likely to vote for him. Nix stated that “pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven”. He used data on the attitudes of the American public to work out which emotional messages would best align with their fears and wants for their country.
Specifically, Cambridge Analytica’s process first assessed internet users’ motivations using the OCEAN model. Then they would follow up with an emotionally driven sponsored Facebook post targeting these very motivations, making them more likely to relate to the messaging – and gradually influencing their choices.
To what extent did psychometric methods like these influence the outcome of the American presidential election? Unfortunately, with Cambridge Analytica refusing to reveal any statistics, we’ll never know – but it does seem to have done the trick.
Looking to the future
And looking forward, it looks like traditional blanket advertising and mass communication methods are destined for the graveyard. Instead, truly personalised messages that appeal to your exact feelings are something we may very well expect to see becoming increasingly more common. Get ready to have your mind read.
- While we may think that decision-making is led by logic, the majority of our choices depend on our emotions, as humans are ultimately driven by feelings.