Emotion trumps logic

Economists treat people as rational beings. We’re taught to quantify the decision-making process; we’re given arguments bound in logic. Our desires and predicted actions are mapped out onto graphs and functions.

If you were truly rational — truly driven by utility functions — I would be able to persuade you to change your outdated behavior using a list of attributes, benefits and business partners. You’ve probably heard that electronic signatures are secure; that a cloud archive is both convenient and safe — and saves you tons of time. (Try using Ctrl+F on a stack of stapled A4s). Signing a work contract electronically is so low-risk that I assumed it didn’t require convincing to adopt — logical or otherwise.

Yet, despite our ceaseless efforts to make you trade slow paper-based processes for convenient digital ones, you cling onto familiar habits that feel good.

I get it. The doubts and fears that we experience when someone tries to change us are so overwhelming that we put up our shields and block our ears. We get attached to old teddy bears not because they are in any way “useful” but because of an emotional connection. I, too, haven’t opened up that dusty photo album in months, if not years. Yet, when someone subtly suggest I replace grandma’s broken heirlooms with more practical, even prettier teacups, I become defensive. Surely you do too.

In order to convince you to change, I need to throw away the familiar logical methods. I need to shock you and surprise you. I need to make you feel something beyond the realization of utility.

But couldn’t we just skip this phase? Couldn’t you put on your rational man cape and accept this change on your own?

Come on, it’s only logical.