In Western thought, emotions are often viewed as irrational impediments to knowledge and decision-making. When novel technologies and innovative practices are met with anxiety and resistance, the prevalent strategy is therefore to react with “more information” and “debiasing” campaigns. However, these strategies often don’t work because of motivated cognition - the tendency of the mind to seek out, believe, retain, and communicate information in line with one’s emotional preferences. We thus have to understand the role of emotion in organising knowledge if we want to better anticipate and control people’s reactions to novel ideas and technologies. Using the example of innovations in sustainable mobility (e.g., electric cars, self-driving cars, car sharing systems) I demonstrate how methods from the affective sciences (e.g., measuring affective connotations, cognitive-affective mapping, social simulation) can be leveraged to better understand and, ideally, foster the spread of novel technology for the benefit of society.
Tobias Schröder is a professor for sustainable urban development and vice president for research and innovation at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. A social psychologist by training, he studies human cognition, emotion, and communication in context of societal transitions. His work was published in leading interdisciplinary journals (e.g., Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Cognitive Science, PNAS). He obtained his PhD from Humboldt University in Berlin, followed by postdoctoral appointments at the Free University of Berlin and the University of Waterloo in Canada. Outside academia, he worked as an advisor to a federal member of parliament for many years.
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