Your Limbic System Tells You to Play it Safe

February 4, 2013

We are ruled by subtle, unconscious currents. Does the thought of running your own business right out of residency terrify you?

“In the 1890s Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of experimental psychology, formulated the doctrine of “affective primacy.”7 Affect refers to small flashes of positive or negative feeling that prepare us to approach or avoid something. Every emotion (such as happiness or disgust) includes an affective reaction, but most of our affective reactions are too fleeting to be called emotions (for example, the subtle feelings you get just from reading the words happiness and disgust).

Wundt said that affective reactions are so tightly integrated with perception that we find ourselves liking or disliking something the instant we notice it, sometimes even before we know what it is.8 These flashes occur so rapidly that they precede all other thoughts about the thing we’re looking at. You can feel affective primacy in action the next time you run into someone you haven’t seen in many years. You’ll usually know within a second or two whether you liked or disliked the person, but it can take much longer to remember who the person is or how you know each other.”

Excerpt From: Haidt, Jonathan. “The Righteous Mind.” Pantheon Books, 2012-03-13. iBooks.

But we can manage the effects of the subtle avoidances. Make sure you want to do this. Then lay out the few necessary steps and lean into the headwind of unease. Let me know if I can be of any help.

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