What brainwaves tell us about elections, storytelling, and making people care

Welcome back to the Snow Report, where we explore thinking and working differently! Today’s edition comes from the desk of my co-author Joe Lazauskas.

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Why do we make the decisions we do?

by Joe Lazauskas

What makes us tick? What makes us really care—enough to buy something, or vote for someone?

This is the big question that Shane and I tackled in our book, The Storytelling Edge. We explored the impact that stories have on our brains, increasing neural activity and triggering the synthesis of oxytocin—the lovely neurochemical that fosters empathy and feelings of connection—and how stories build relationships and make us care.

After the book came out, there was a giant hole in my life. For a short time, it was filled by Breaking Bad, one of the best stories ever told. But then I finished season 5, and I returned, like a junkie, to investigating the neuroscience of stories. I wanted to go deeper, and spent a lot of time talking  to neuroscientists.

(Pro tip: If you ever want to feel like an idiot, spend a year talking to neuroscientists.)

Almost every neuroscientist I interviewed dreamed of curing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, or brain disorders like ADHD and depression. But it turns out that if you are developing the kind of neuroscience tech to do that, there’s an easy way to get paid along the way: by applying neuro-tech to marketing.

It turns out that watching people’s brains as they see ads, TV shows, and political speeches can actually help us predict what those people are going to do next.  

This technology has gotten very, very good. I believe it could actually be the secret weapon to the 2020 elections—an essential technology for presidential and congressional hopefuls to track what messages are capturing people’s hearts.

I just wrote a post about it, which you can read here, but for those of you short on time, here are four big things you should know:

  1. Human decision making isn’t rational. As neuroscientists have discovered, emotions, not logic, drive our decisions. It determines who we vote for and what we buy. It’s why we pay twice as much for an iPhones as an Android with the same features. And it explains why “experience” is a terrible predictor of who will win an election.

  2. While it was still in stealth mode, one major neuromarketing company studied the brains of independent voters in the summer of 2016 and predicted Donald Trump’s victory in key battleground states with uncanny accuracy while everyone else was predicting his defeat. Their technology has only gotten better since.

  3. They also identified big weaknesses in Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy… and the kinds of mistakes that most of the rest of us are likely to make when trying to be persuasive in our lives and businesses as well.

  4. With over $10 billion in ads expected for 2020 and close races expected across the Midwest, the use of this technology could be the difference between winning and losing for any candidate. But it could also really creep people out!

  5. The neuromarketing lessons from 2016 are crucial for anyone trying to sway people’s decision making—whether you work in marketing, sales, or want to be a better leader.

Here’s a link to the full post again!

If you want to nerd out on this neuro stuff with us, or just want to yell at Joe on Twitter, please share the post along! You can also find him on Linkedin here.

Much love,


P.S. I just posted this behind-the-scenes look at the new book Let Them See You, by Porter Braswell. It’s a practical and uplifting guide to bringing your unique self to teamwork situations. I highly recommend it!