There’s someone in my head but it’s not me

First published on Brand Republic 11 April 2011

Last week, I revealed what I felt to be a rather a generalised view by an eminent psychologist of how creative people behave in an office environment.

This week, my attention was drawn to an article by neuroscientist David Eagleman –

My head is mixed up as to where psychology ends and neuroscience begins, or whether they are in some way interlinked, but Eagleman’s piece included this line:

‘The first lesson we learn from studying our own circuitry is shocking: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control.’

Eagleman goes on to say:

‘The problem is that the law rests on two assumptions that are charitable, but demonstrably false.

The first is that people are “practical reasoners”, which is the law’s way of saying that they are capable of acting in alignment with their best interests, and capable of rational foresight about their actions.

The second is that all brains are created equal. Everyone who is of legal age and above an IQ of 70 is assumed, in the eyes of the law, to have the same capacity for decision-making, understanding, impulse control and reasoning.

But these ideas simply don’t match up with the facts of neuroscience’.

I am sure that much of this could be applied to marketing.

As someone who has faced, and faced up to, criminal behaviour in my career, I have long been interested in why people who, on the face of it, were perfectly normal – whom I had enjoyed meeting, whom I had dined with, whose families I had met – yet were found to have twisted moral standards.

Since then, I have conducted seminars on ‘integrity in business’ where I have pointed out to students that crooks don’t walk round with red horns and forked tails. They are normal people who are prepared to behave in a way that, to the rest of us, is unthinkable.

Eagleman seems to support this view.

In my own experience, fraudsters behave in the same way as other criminals. Motivated by greed, they simply do not think of the consequences of their behaviour. Nor do they care about other people. I feel sorry for their children.

We now know this applies to our politicians. This week another MP, Elliot Morley, was found guilty of defrauding us of £32,000. He faces longest prison sentence of all the MPs in the expenses scandal – and all for thirty-two grand.

I wonder if he thinks it was worth it? Did he think of the consequences? Who cares? He’s a crook.

You should read ‘Engleby’ by Sebastian Faulks. It is a brilliant fictional insight into the self-jusification that lies inside the twisted mind.

So we are not all the same.

Within neatly defined demographic groups, we do not all behave in the same way.

In marketing, we should always remember this. Our customers are each individuals. When we ‘create a dialogue’ with them, we are talking to groups of individuals not individuals in groups.

I am getting interested in this David Eagleman. He’s just published a book called ‘Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain’. You can read a review and an extract here –

Blimey, the first chapter is called ‘There’s Someone In My Head But It’s Not Me’.

That’s from ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite groups.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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