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How To Avoid Emotional Influence In Your Creative Decisions

4 June 2015

In my last blog I explored the idea of thinking without thinking and talked about the positive and negative effects of making spontaneous decisions. This week I wanted to talk about another part of the decision making process; how emotional influence can affect our creative decisions. I’ve also seen this called ‘confirmation bias’. I’ve been reading Dan Gardner’s book ‘Risk’ – The Science And Politics Of Fear. One of the prevalent themes throughout this book is influence; the decision maker being pulled towards an unfair conclusion simply because his/her environment reinforces and shapes their belief. Dan talks about how we rarely look outside the obvious answer to make quick decisions, which makes this book a great follow up to Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’. Our gut guides us with intuition. Our head then looks for proof and proceeds to say yes or no. The integrity of this decision depends on how we are influenced in the proof we seek. Since our work as creatives is always shaped by our beliefs, I figured it would be a great topic to share here.


Risk starts off with some good 9/11 statistics and shows us how fear based media irrationally controls our perception of something like terrorism. When the planes crashed into the towers, America reacted by choosing not to fly, fleeing the airports for fear of a similar incident. 3000 people had died in the towers yet the risk of more people dying in a similar terror attack was calculated at a tiny 1-in-135,000 chance. Compared to the much more dangerous 1-in-6000 chance of dying on the road. Blinded by the media wash, 1595 more people died than usual on a North American road that year. Half the number again of what died in the towers. Over 6 times more than the people actually on the planes and 319 times more than what were killed in the 2001 anthrax terror attack. The reality is fewer than 20 documented terror attacks have killed more than 100 people at a time in the last century. Yet both the USA and the UK, with majority support from its people choose to go to war, with terrorism at the front of their concern.


My aim in Endless Wave Dynamics is not to get too political, there’s plenty of blogs better suited for that, but I do think the statistics above are a refreshing way of looking at the whole 9/11 situation. It definitely shows how irrational we can be when our environment shapes our beliefs, especially when an emotion like fear is injected. There’s a great book by Steven Pinker called ‘The Better Angels Of Our Nature’ where he gives countless examples of how we are living in the safest time of our human existence, yet fear is so prominent we’d rather risk driving the dangerous roads than board a perfectly safe aeroplane. An explanation for our irrational interpretations can be founded in the irresponsible over-dramatized journalism we consume, the huge corporations and businesses profiting from fear mongering and on evolutionary scale too. Our stone-age brains are simply not keeping up with the speed in which our world is advancing. We’ve been around for about 200,000 years and for the majority of which we’ve been a simple hunter gather species. It’s easy to look around and conclude that our environment is normal, it’s anything but normal! We are still hyper sensitive to the movement in the grass and we still listen (like our lives depend on it) to the 30 people in our tribe when they tell us stories about snakes. We are addicted and in-tune to conflict.

We’re so comfortable with the feeling of fear that if the news on our television and newspapers represented real life – we’d be bored shitless.

Making decisions that are influenced by our environment pushes all the same emotional buttons that our ancestor’s stories told. The same fear we feel is what kept us alive and in-line in our tribes, it has kept us from getting our heads smashed in with a big club. The more dramatic and different the situation, the greater we perceive the risk and the more important the decision we have to make around that fear. Even if the statistics prove our fear to be way safer than some simple tasks we do everyday. If we was a midst a huge terror attack right now the death toll still wouldn’t come close to how many people die in a car crash each year. Apparently more people die from a vending machine falling on them than get bitten by a shark, after reading Risk – I can believe that too! With the Alton Towers disaster in the news this week, how many people are going to be too scared to get on another roller-coaster? For no legit reason.


Obviously there’s nowhere near this level of fear involved in taking a photograph, writing a blog, composing music or shooting a video but there are always decisions being made that are influenced by our environment. Whether this is in financial scarcity when dealing with payment, to conflicts between your clients and your own personal tastes, I’d recommend you assess how your decisions are being influenced. For a quality outcome that is full of integrity, an internal dialogue and argument needs to take place. Your head needs to over rule your gut. We are not slaves to our intuitions if we become aware of how our influences are playing us. Be a rational creative today and make the right decisions in your creative work.

Check out more from Dan Gardner at

Buy Risk here.

And More from me at




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