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The relationship between information and emotion
The relationship between information and emotion is that strong emotion provokes biased information seeking. The stronger your emotions, the more you will learn; but it’s not neutral learning. You’re learning in order to validate what you’re already feeling. When it comes to risk, people who don’t have strong emotions usually learn very little; people with strong emotions learn a lot, but it’s biased.
You’re sending signals when you report, and precisely because most people don’t have a technical vocabulary, the signals matter significantly more than words and numbers.
The classic example is this: If you say a pandemic could kill as many as two to seven million, people will kind of shrug off the two to seven, but they’ll focus on the “as many as” as evidence that it’s a bad number. They’ll say, “Oh, it could kill as many as two to seven million people!”
If, on the other hand, you said it would only kill two to seven million people, people use “only” as their signal and say, “Oh, it’s only two to seven million people.” So the number matters less than the signals you put around the number. Those tell people whether you’re trying to freak them out or you’re trying to help them.