Jonah Lehrer’s second book “How we decide” got rightfully a very good review in today’s New York Times. Lehrer is bringing a different perspective into the discussion of behavioral economists who have been successful in showing that the previous axiom of most economists “The human being makes rational decisions in any kind of economical context (e.g. buying, investing)” is wrong. He focuses on the driving forces of how we make decisions.
His strongest points in the book are when he explains through a detailed description of the brain and dopamine neurons that “the activity of our dopamine neurons demonstrates that feelings aren’t simply reflections of hard-wired animal instincts…Instead, human emotions are rooted in the predictions of highly flexible brain cells, which are constantly adjusting their connections to reflect reality…Our emotions are deeply empirical.”
Lehrer brings a fresh and interesting dimension of the old discussion between emotional and rational motivators in human beings. This has high relevance for designing and understanding any kind of marketing. Both, the behavioral economists and Lehrer’s school of thoughts demonstrate that there is no such clean distinction between the rational and the emotional. Both are much more interdependent and relying on each other than most of us had assumed.
Lehrer’s insights deepen our knowledge of how great marketing could work in the intersection and tension between rational and emotional. Marketers will have a tougher time to say that a program should be just more rational or emotional. Most decisions of human beings are occurring in the grey area between both.