William Davies: How feelings took over the world

Those of us concerned about the increasing irrationality of civic life and public debate –the denial of expertise, the “fake news” canards, the rush to believe rather than to examine, etc. — should pay some attention to why we have come to this state.

William Davies, a sociologist whose next book is –, has a perceptive essay in The Guardian that is filled with some thoughtful insights. Feelings and emotions, he writes, can conflict with the facts and evidence before us, and our inclinations are to ignore, or change, the facts to fit our feelings:

Unscrupulous politicians and businesses have long exploited our instincts and emotions to convince us to believe or buy things that, on more careful reflection, we needn’t have done. Real-time media, available via mobile technologies, exacerbate this potential, meaning that we spend more of our time immersed in a stream of images and sensations, with less time for reflection or dispassionate analysis. If politics and public debate have become more emotional, as so many observers have claimed, this is asmuch a reflection on the speed and relentlessness of current media technologies as anything else.

A major villain in this process, according to Davies, is speed — the time it takes to receive and process information, both with our devices and with our brains. The value of the “scientific method” — evaluating information with observation and experimentation — is that it is a slow process.

Take some time and read — with some deliberation — Davies’ essay: How feelings took over the world | Culture | The Guardian

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Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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