Keep losing arguments? A psychologist explains why emotions are more persuasive than logic
Even if you have all the facts, you may not convince others to agree with your argument. It’s frustrating, but according to Rob Yeung, a chartered psychologist and author of the recently published book How to Stand Out, it happens more than we would like. It turns out that the most effective strategy may be to use emotion, not logic, to make your case.
“If you think about most big topics, people are not persuaded by logic,” Yeung tells Quartz from London. “Most people in the Western world know that smoking cigarettes is bad for you and understand the principles of weight loss. But that’s not enough to motivate them to change. People do not listen to facts. You need an emotional angle.”
This theory is backed up by neuroscience: Researchers have found that patients who cannot process emotions also struggle to make decisions, suggesting that emotions play a key role in our decision-making abilities.
Yeung says that deciding which emotion to deploy in any given argument depends on the situation. Just remember, you have many options, so choose wisely. “Is it to get them angry about social injustice, is it to use humor to make them engage, is it about inspiring people and making them feel a sense of awe?” he says. “There’s lots of research showing that fear can be a motivating emotion but it has to be used properly.”