In past lives, many of my former colleagues and I* would have leaped at the chance when asked to validate a series of statements, chapters, or books.
Not any more, especially after Election 2012. Bloggers and punsters, editors and opiners alike rushed to quick judgment about which party/candidate told the truth and which, fabricated. “Right or not” became a cause célèbre as factcheck.orgs of all shapes and sizes weighed in. Blue or red truth? trumpeted the headlines. Both political parties blared Fiction! … and pointed fingers. Posturing? Yes, for many. Yet many voters, in the millions, were simply seeking credulity and authenticity.
Regardless of the outcome, the facts didn’t matter. Because facts, in and by themselves, were not the prime determinant of the election. A further surprise: What did make a difference, psychological researchers insist, is the very complicated science of behaviors. One study reveals that the more knowledgeable voters, those armed with the most facts, show more bias than those who knew less. Another shows that people assume news is true (or not) simply based on which TV or radio station, newspaper or magazine, Web site or blogger reported it.
Why? It has everything to do with emotions, the reasons we search for verification. If I’m afraid or concerned or insecure, it’s doubly hard for me to wrap my mind around the facts. The truth matters less if I’m simply not prepared to accept it. Cognitive dissonance, in part: We ignore facts and science when they conflict with our practices (smoking, for instance).
At this point, the consequences from non-truths might not matter, depending on the specific cause and effect. What this signals, initially, is that, as communicators and marketers, as designers and brand strategists, we all need to become a bit less fact-obsessed and a lot more emotion-driven as we set about to change minds and behaviors.
*Say it’s so: My career began as an MSLS-wielding librarian.