Motivation and Negative Political Messages

Motivation and negative political messagesWith less than a week to go to the EU Referendum, a significant proportion of the electorate still profess to being “undecided”.  That is to say – the logical, rational, thinking part of them has yet to make a decision.  In fact, they may already have unconsciously decided.

According to Daniel Kahneman, the Psychologist and Nobel Prize Winner, people do not always act in their own economic self-interest, nor do they adopt a long term approach to planning for the future or minimising risks.  In fact we are much more short-sighted – our brain circuits respond to immediate (mainly negative) consequences.

As humans we are hardwired to respond to risk that are present in our environment– it’s a basic survival mechanism.  The loss of a resource necessary to survival could have proved fatal to our ancestors so a major focus would have been on not losing any of these precious resources. Any risk of losing them would have triggered the reflex “fight or flight” response.

This may hold the answer to why politicians on both sides have been running such negative campaigns – it’s because they are exploiting the way our brains are programmed.  So the focus on immigration by the Brexit campaign is triggering fear associated with loss of safety and security.

As well as the primitive survival response, there are also other features of our neurology that are being exploited by the politicians – the so-called metaprogrammes.

Metaprogrammes are filters that unconsciously shape our perception of the world around us.  A key programme is the motivation direction filter (sometimes called towards and away from).  This determines the type of consequences that are likely to spur us into action.

A person who has a towards motivation direction will move towards what they want — potential pleasure. They are goal- and achievement-oriented, focused on the possibilities, opportunities and visions of the future.  A person with an away from motivation moves away from what they don’t want — potential pain.

In this country we are somewhat more likely to be motivated by “away froms”.  This is magnified by the survival response when the fear that we will lose something or that our safety is being threatened is added to the mix.

Both “Remain” and “Brexit” campaigns are banking on the fact that voters will be more galvanised by problems to be dealt with and issues to be avoided rather than goals or achievements. This may be why we have seen a seemingly endless stream of negative messages.  “Remain” are focussing on the negative consequences of leaving, and “Brexit” on the negative consequences of staying.

Both sides are running a negative campaign in the hope that the message resonates with us and produces fear, so that we believe we must move away from the other side, and towards them.  Unfortunately they are neglecting the other half of the motivation equation and run the risk neglecting those of us who are more motivated by pleasure (towards) rather than pain (away from).  So why not start giving us some more positive consequences so that we can all get motivated?

Find out more about Metaprogrammes and Motivation

Developing greater awareness of our own metaprogrammes is a key to discovering the source of our own motivation.  Find out more about metaprogrammes and how they shape our attitudes and behaviours in this previous blog post  on the MBS Coaching website   For a detailed analysis of your own metaprogrammes you may also be interested in the iWAM Psychometric Tool – more details here.

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