Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


18 July 2012 by Nicholas in Personal

I had a dream where an amorphous figure in a cloak told me things, and I listened without critical faculty and believed without question. I woke up and had a think about it, about how our subconscious relays information back to the conscious mind and about how we relate to information and ideas.

When something engages our subconscious, we’re more susceptible to the message it conveys but also tend to identify with it more and feel a greater connection. When we read something, the descriptions tend to allow room for interpretation. Sometimes they are sparse, sometimes they obscure action, character and plot with their density. But they always leave room for the reader to conjure up setting and atmosphere, to interact with ideas at a conceptual level, to achieve a degree of ownership and kinship with the events, settings and people. The written word, digested with the eye or by ear, has a power and inclusiveness that stimulates and makes us more willing to accept ideas, to cherish them as our own. It’s a path to the subconscious.

The power of the spoken word for relaying ideas has not gone unnoticed: when politicians want to make a point, particularly when campaigning, they make it as an anecdote rather than quoting statistics. By placing the idea in a context and trying to get us to care about the protagonist and create a scenario that we actually invest in the idea is we will become more susceptible to it. Hopefully the majority of people who hear it will understand there are always exceptions to every rule and you can always found a counter example, even should the vast majority of cases occur one way.

Personalisation and humanising an issue lies at the heart of making an emotive argument over one borne of logic. It’s why the news looks for a human interest angle, why a politician will try to tell you about a sole person rather than the multitude and why authors tend to focus on a small core of characters. It’s not as simple as humans can’t comprehend large numbers, it’s that they can’t bring themselves to care about the group rather than the individual. It’s a lack of comprehension and empathy with the masses. We can relate to nearly anybody, but we can’t relate to everyone at once.

By crafting an idea in a way that it is digested at a personal and intimate level it is much more likely to be taken to heart and attains a much greater power. By getting the reader or listener to fill in the blanks themselves and create the tiny details they actually interact with the idea and allow it access to their subconscious. Ideas aren’t just about their quality and brilliance, they’re about their communication and presentation.