It has been a hard few days to comprehend what is taking place in the world right now. In whatever circles you run in, industry you work in or conversations you've had with family and friends, I'm sure the topic of conversation as of late, has mentioned either one of two things:
- the state of the world
- something you've seen or referenced on social media and how social media has played a role in reflecting the current state of our world
If you work in the agriculture-food industry as I do, one of the 'topics of conversation' in the last year has also been about the misinformation that exists when it comes to labeling and consumer knowledge of things such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), gluten-free, hormones, use of antibiotics, etc.
A lot of the timeliness around these conversations has to do with the marketing/supply-chain decisions made by major fast food chains and retailers recently in where and how they are sourcing their products in relation to what their consumers are asking for (or what they want them to ask for) (see McDonald's & cage-free eggs), Subway sourcing Canadian ingredients, A & W's Better Beef & Raised without the use of antibiotics campaigns, Domino's Pizza using only cheese made from 100% Canadian milk, and McDonald's 'Not without Canadian farmers' campaign)
As you can see, some of these decisions favour Canadian agriculture and food while other campaigns hinder.
In many of the conversations I've participated in, been privy too or watched transpire online relating to food and misinformation over the past year, one of the most common arguments in how we need to counter this misinformation with the use of science/facts to dispute the misconceptions.
How the industry needs to inform consumers with more facts, figures and logic. How the industry has to help consumers make more rational, well-informed and educated decisions in how they go about choosing their food. How we need to let the facts speak for the truth to counter misinformation that consumers have learned, grown up with, or heard from family, friends, society, etc.
After witnessing the 2016 US Presidential election and all that has transpired since, including this weekends devastating events, it has made me question that while we can believe that facts and figures should be used as the right tool to shape truth and change one's opinion, what role does emotion play in all of this? Does emotion in fact outweigh science, facts, figures, logic and rationality?
Can you truly have a one-time conversation with someone and try and change their personal opinion on a matter with facts/figures? Or do we have to get to the heart or root of WHY their making that decision to understand that more often times then we'd like to acknowledge, emotion is what drives people's decisions, thoughts and ideas, which would explain some of the events that are taking place currently in the world and influencing the conversation online and on social media.
Whether it is right or wrong, there is science that supports that emotion is what in fact what trumps science, facts, logic and rationality.
Studying emotion and how it relates to our brain and day-to-day decision making is something that's been studied since the 1800's. As this Harvard study about emotions and decision making points out, "many psychological scientists now assume that emotions are the dominant driver of our most meaningful decisions in life." Many leading neuroscientists, who have studied emotion and how it relates to decision-making more prominently in the last 15 to 20 years, have come to find that "even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion."
If this weekend has taught us anything (among so many other valuable life lessons), it would be that what appears 'right' or 'wrong' depends on the eye of the beholder and what their emotions are telling them is right or wrong in their world of views or beliefs.
This can be disheartening and hard to come to terms with, but its something for all of us to keep in mind as we communicate with our intended audiences, especially in the agriculture and food field.