Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Report on The Influential Mind

The Influential Mind was an incredible exploration of human nature and how influence plays a vital role in all that we do. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist, depicts the core elements that govern how our mind and brains functions. The book mapped out key factors such as emotion, incentives, agency, curiosity, and other peoples’ influence on how we think and behavior. Through our own language, expressions, and actions we directly influence others without even knowing it. Through the emotional storyline, Sharot depicted this information in a way that was easy to relate to, comprehend, and learn. Due to the great influence each of us has on one another, Sharot provides insight on how to influence other’s in a positive and more effective way. 


One of the solutions Sharot highlighted was that immediate rewards work better than threats for motivating people to act.As humans, we have circuits in our brain that choose reliability over unreliability and pleasure over pain. Motivating others with a reliable and pleasurable reward, is a more effective approach than threats. This correlates directly back to our course slides on reinforcers. When given a reward, people are more likely to be influenced and follow through with the desired behavior. Human nature is designed to choose pleasure over pain. Immediate pleasurable rewards are an impactful way on influencing others.

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Another tool Sharot suggested was to offer control to someone rather than giving them orders. Majority of people become anxious and stressed when control is removed from their lives. We can work with the human nature of control by providing people with the option of choice. When people have the ability to choose their own behavior and actions, they experience the sense of control, and therefore they are more open to being influenced. Effectance is a topic covered in class that talks about an individual’s need to actively control their environment. When I wake up and decide I am going to work out today, I made that decision on my own terms. This is much more effective than someone waking me up and ordering me to go workout.

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In addition, Sharot stressed that humans will pay closer attention to something that highlights the possibility of progress, rather than disaster. Our human emotions lean towards hope rather than fear. Thus, if we highlight positive and hopeful messages, it is easier to influence others.  This could be related to selecting a mate. When individuals select a mate, they look at the possibility of progress. Men tend to select a partner based on good looks, indicating fertility, and an increase in chance of offspring. Women tend to select a partner based on financial prospects, ambitious, and security, which will increase their chance of survival. We pay closer attention to factors that increase the possibility of growth and prosperity, rather than doom and disaster.

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One of my favorite parts of the book that Sharot presents is the power of emotions in humans. The easiest way to communicate with someone is through emotion. This process is instant and rather effortless. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have a tremendous impact on how others feel around you. 


For example, I am in a positive and euphoric mood. I just had a good adrenaline-rushing workout and a delicious and fulfilling meal. I am headed to the beach for the rest of the day with my close friend. When my friend arrives at my house, I instantaneously feel that something is wrong. Through his facial expressions and posture, I can easily identify that something is not right. As he greets me, his tone of voice and language illustrate a state of anger. My empathy towards all that I am perceiving cause my high spirits to decline. As he explains what has happened, I first begin to feel sorry and terrible about the situation and by the end of the story I am resentful for him about the situation. Before all of this my emotions were at a high, yet the power of my friends’ emotions on my own, influenced my entire state. Sharot explains, that our brains are designed in a way to transmit emotions quickly to one another. Emotions convey important information about around surrounding environment. If this example involved fear, I would become afraid because my brain detects possible danger. If the example involved excited, I would become excited due to the possibility of future rewards.  


Our emotion nature can relate back to all the course modules in one way or another. When looking at intrinsically motivated behavior, we base this one the three different sources of curiosity, effectance, and flow. Curiosity, as a source of intrinsic motivations, enables one in exploring and learning about their environment. A major way individuals explore and learn about their environment is through studying and interpreting the emotions of others. Effectance refers to an individual’s need to actively control their environment. We control our environment largely through emotion. Lastly, flow refers to a pleasurable state that stems from being involved. Our emotions change based on the surroundings of our environment. We tend to be attracted to those people or things that give us pleasure, and we avoid people and things that bring us pain. (Why You Feel What You Feel--Power of Emotion)

Overall, the book does an incredible job at depicting human nature and our wants and needs. The Influential Mindgives you great insight on how we influence others and how we are influenced by others and Sharot provides numerous solutions on how we can more effectively influence our surroundings. The Sharot believes, once we all have a deeper comprehension of the workings of the brain and mind, it can therefore help us in creating impact and avoiding errors when trying to change others.


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