Wonderment Psychology: Wired for Moments

Published by: Jeff Day

The human brain!  A crazy, intricate, and complex organ! It controls every aspect of processing and production of thoughts, actions, memories, and feelings. The sum of its activity produces reactions and context for our world experience. Its chemistry and billion strong neuron processes make it a truly miraculous and fascinating study.

Physiology of the human brain, however, isn’t restricted just to medical professionals. In our world of integrated experiences, understanding how the brain works and why is the difference between stories and messages gaining lift or falling completely flat. I see this in live events and permanent architectural installations every day. Consciously or sub consciously, we react to planned and unplanned environments in real-time. We process, compute, and generate positive or negative feedback all richly connected to cues and their supporting context.


The notion of psychological and physiological reactions to stories clearly is not mine. Here are a few notable experience alumni who demonstrate this well beyond my words:

Emotional Transportation Business – Peter Gruber, Owner LA Dodgers, Golden State Warriors, Mandalay Entertainment

In 2012 Guber made a bold statement, “…we are all in the emotional transportation business.” Certainly in sports and entertainment we watch stories unfold before our eyes. Not knowing how the story will end adds intrigue and mystery to the experience. It’s what keeps us coming back for more. 

Urgent Optimism – Jane McGonigal, Legendary Game Designer, Author/Researcher, Infamous TEDx Speaker

McGonigal talks about the idea of “urgent optimism.” Her research suggests a fascinating dynamic in gaming where people playing games continue to relentlessly play them despite know that more than 80% of the time they will fail. Gamers come back again and again because they believe that, in time, they will succeed. It’s a contributor to why gamers spend so many hours failing…and have a great time doing it in the quest to succeed. Think for a second on how that could really change the game.

Positive Associations – Dr. Sarnoff Mednick, University of Michigan

In the mid-1960s, Dr. Sarnoff pioneered the notion of creative thinking as the forming of associations into new combinations which either meet specific requirements or are useful in some other way. He introduced the remote association (RAT) test, where the process of completing a series of associated words drives association with others. You may have taken the test. You are given three dissimilar words (fish, mine, rush) and then tested to see if you provide a fourth word that is connected to all three (gold). His premise was that people in a heightened state of creativity make the highest associations in the shortest amount of time.

So why does this matter? Experience cues mean everything! If the cues culminate and build upon each other, then our openness to creative experiences are maximized. Our brains make quick, positive associations, which is GOLD to leaders and organizations.  

The Physician Candy Experience  Dr. Alice Isen, Cornell University

I love this story. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Isen put psychological backing to the notion of sweet treatment and its corresponding positive results. Forty doctors where given a challenge of diagnosing an ailment. Half were given a bag of candy as an appreciation token for participating in the survey. The other half were not. The doctors who were given the candy performed better in diagnosing than those who did not. The correlation drove the fact that pleasant feeling states “give rise to altruism, helpfulness, and improved processes,” according to Isen. Creating well-crafted and deeply choreographed experiences drive pleasant feelings. Exactly the association you want when promoting a cause or service.

This brings us back to the central theme: Wonderment Psychology. Human beings are wired for experiences, good and bad.  And folks who understand mental, neuron magic will get the best results! Want more? Reach out!


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