TOK Presentation Transcript

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Names have been changed for privacy This document is in no way endorsed by the IBO, nor should it be used as such. This work remains the intellectual property of the original authors. While you are free to seek guidance from this work, it should not be replicated in any manner for submission as IB assessment. This would be regarded as plagiarism and lead to cancellation of your diploma.

Ever since I first got an email account, I have regularly received chain mail from various friends and family members. I have always found these emails to be annoying because they do nothing more than waste my time and choke up my email inbox. Based on my own reaction, I never forward these emails to save others the same annoyance. Like Josephine, I generally find chainmail to be an annoyance. I rarely, if ever, forward a chainmail and if I do, I only forward it to a select number of people whom I think will find it humorous so that they may brighten up their day. However, as a whole, I find that chainmail seems to be written with no intent other than to curse or condemn you if you dare to break the chain. These emails come in many forms: some contain thoughtful or religious messages; others recount sad stories of illness, death or poor living circumstances, whilst others may be a questionnaire about yourself or another person. Despite these different forms, they all have one thing in common, which is that they contain an instruction to forward the email to others. As Veronica mentioned, these instructions generally include threats or promises that will come true based on whether you forward the email or not. My reaction to chainmail is initially a purely logical one, I understand that an email is a single piece of digital data: it can go to thousands of people and does not in any way influence a person’s fate. Even if I decide to consider it seriously, I still reason that it’s better to break the chain, rather than to “condemn” fifteen other people I know.

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To us, it is obvious that there is no value to the claims made in chain emails. However, we know that there must be others who do take them seriously because we continue to receive them. To me, it is obvious that if any of these threats or promises came true, it will have nothing to do with whether or not you forwarded an email. However, the sheer number of chain emails I receive indicates to me that some of my own friends and family have been influenced by them to the point that they feel compelled to send them on. This in turn makes us wonder: what prompts people to send these messages in the first place? As we both react in an analytical manner, logically dismissing the claims in the emails to be false, we chose to consider chainmail from a different perspective, what would happen if we were to take the claims seriously and react in an emotional manner instead? Once we realised people who send chain mail do so based on their emotions, instead of their reason, this prompted us to question just how much influence our emotions can have on our decision-making, and whether it can cause us to perform an action that would otherwise be considered unreasonable. From this, we identified the knowledge issue: To what extent do emotions overpower our reason in decision-making? Many of these emails try to provoke action by using promises to evoke hope. I find that I can understand the feelings of hope that people feel from sending on these emails. Just as I forward on humorous emails in the “hope” that I might brighten up someone else’s day, people may see the promises in the emails with the hope that they may also brighten up their own fortunes, be it their love-life, wealth or simply luck for the future. Even though it is clear to me that emailing a generic message to multiple friends is not going to influence my future, the “what if” factor still comes into play. I wonder to myself: “what if it really did influence my fate, what if I was wrong with my logic, and if I were to choose to send them on, what would I lose?” In the hope of making my life better, this emotional response has affected my decision-making, causing me to do something that I otherwise would never have considered. By the same token, fear can have a huge effect on our reasoning. Although to me it seems simple to ignore the silly threats in these emails, others may allow fear of the possible

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consequences to overpower them. As with hope, there is a “what if” factor that prevents some people from relying on their own reason. I have seen some emails that included threats to, not only the person’s wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of their friends and family. I realised that many people do want to risk attaching the fate of others to their own poor choices, and see forwarding these emails as the best choice. They may be fully capable of reasoning, but out of fear, they choose to ignore any logical conclusions just in case they are wrong. To them, they see two possibilities: 1. Forward the email, and if it is false, no one will get seriously hurt 2. Ignore the email, and risk harm to myself or others if it turns out to be true. Driven by fear, these people choose to continue the bothersome trend of sending these emails around, and totally ignore their own logic. Some emails are written to appeal to our emotions of sympathy. They use images provocative images of animal cruelty or even a picture of a small child coupled with a message dictating how they are now in dire need of medical help. They either take the form of a petition or claim that for email sent, money will be donated to resolve the issue. Either way, they both claim that by forwarding the email, you can make a difference and encourage this by evoking our emotions of sympathy. Personally, I realise that these emails are an inefficient method of accomplishing their “goals”. If they were genuine, they would redirect people to a site where the signatures might actually be counted, rather than simply dispersed into thousands of inboxes. I have also seen emails used anger. They will recount stories such as how a child was killed by a drunk driver, and instruct readers to pass it on to prevent it from happening again. Others may be about political issues, and say that if you feel angered by the situation, you should pass on the email to show support. I find these emails pointless because forwarding an email will not change the bad things that happen in the world. Once again, this is an example of how an overpowering emotional reaction can cause people to do something that is not reasonable. Given that such a range of emotion responses can still affect this decision, we realised that this concept must also apply to other situations. Humans experience a range of emotional

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responses in many other situations, which indicates that forwarding a chain email is not the only decision we might make that could be based on emotion. A chain email I received a while ago got me thinking on this idea. The email used emotionally-loaded language to cause the reader to panic about a fictional virus that would infect their computer and destroy all their data. I never forwarded this email, but instead did a quick online search to ensure that the virus was not real. However, I began to wonder about other situations where panic may cause people to make a rash decision. I immediately thought of shopping, and how advertisers use similar language to make customers feel that they are under pressure to buy a particular product. This includes common phrases such as “while stocks last,” “biggest sale ever,” “get in quick” and “huge savings.” This is a situation in which I have often found myself, where I felt that if I did not buy something at that time, I would miss out altogether. I once bought some expensive perfume that was on sale at a reduced price, but then one month later, saw it again for an even lower price. At the time, I panicked that if I did not buy it there and then, I would never be able to afford it otherwise. Looking back, I realise that the purchase was a very poor decision, and I should not have acted so impulsively, without taking time to set aside my emotions and consider the situation logically. Another area in which people regularly make rash, unreasoned decisions under the influence of emotion is gambling. In these situations people find themselves driven by the hope of “hitting it big”. People are lead on by a small win clouded by hope into thinking against logic that “their luck is up”. If people don’t win, and instead gamble away all their money, they often continue to play in the hope that they might win it back, frequently borrowing more to do so and digging themselves into debt. As well as hope, people are driven by an innate desire to win which causes them to gamble. It is this innate desire to win which causes people to indulge in this activity, regardless of the extremely low win rate and the extensive number of people with gambling addictions. Even I have experienced this desire, often making bets without a wager simply so that I might win. For example, I remember making bets with my brother over who would make it to the front door first, driven an innate desire to win and even a hope that he would be slower. I would disregard reason, ignoring the fact that he was five years older, and clearly more able to win and instead, I would give in to my desire to win, influenced by hope.
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Both these additional examples highlight how all the ways of knowing work together to affect our thinking. However, when one has too much influence, it can hinder our ability to use the others. The language used in chain emails, shopping advertisements, and gambling machines is emotionally loaded, causing an emotional reaction. For those who are more sensitive to their emotions and allow them to influence their decision-making, this can prevent them from using their reasoning. This means that their actions are based on emotion instead of logic and planning. On the other hand, those like Veronica and I who rely on reason, and can use it separately from our emotions, do not always act based on our emotional reactions. Although reasoning is often pivotal, in some cases it is vital that we rely on emotional reactions instead. An area which relies on the emotional reactions of people for the benefit of society, are the emergency services. These voluntary services require people to overlook reason, asking that people put aside self-preservation and endanger themselves to save another. Especially recently, with the Queensland floods and New Zealand earthquakes, we have witnessed these compassionate beings risking their lives out of care and consideration for perfect strangers. Heroes of society, they have dragged people form crumbling buildings which might collapse at any moment, they have piloted helicopters over raging floods, saving people even though they may experience psychological trauma later. Charities also require volunteers or donors, to put aside their own benefit for that of another being, spending time and money to help another, receiving nothing in return. These emotions of consideration and compassion our vital to the functioning of a fair society, they put a price on life which might be considered beyond reason and allows for the establishment of a symbiotic society, rather than a free-for-all. With each example of a reaction, we have generalised the attitudes and responses of different people. In spite of this, it is important to remember that each person will respond differently, much of which would be determined by their culture, past experience, and the social attitudes of those around them. In some cases, this may also depend on their religious background and their level of education. For Veronica and I, we can see that we both have

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very scientific attitudes, using our reasoning and basing our ideas on evidence. This would have a lot to do with our education and the fact that we live in a relatively secular society. Cultural expectations also influence the different reactions of people. They may be influenced by the prejudices and ideals of their culture, affecting their reactions to situations. Individually some people are more likely to conform to social expectations than others, forwarding a chainmail because they believe it is normal, peer pressured. Other people are far less likely to conform to these expectations, especially when they feel knowledgeable in an area. Josephine and I would fall into the latter category as we both are confident in our ability to analyse a situation, as Knowers, we question the reliability of what we are told, rather than accept it as fact. Personal experience is also a major factor in a person’s individual reactions. People tend to empathise with one another if they have experienced a similar situation. An example of this might be that a someone who has been close to another with cancer, would be more easily moved by a chainmail on the same subject. These personal experiences are a part of what makes an individual’s reactions unique, even though they may come to the same decision as another person. We have seen that by analysing the simple issue of chain emails, we can see a flaw in decision-making ability of many people. Although these emails have a relatively small effect on our lives, we can see that when the same concept of allowing our emotions to affect our decisions has implications in other areas. In this presentation we have explored the extent to which emotion is capable of overpowering our reason in decision-making. Depending on the situation and individual, it can exert a great deal of influence over our decision-making, causing us to reach conclusions we wouldn’t otherwise make. In some cases this may be a negative result, such as gambling and impulse-buying. In other scenarios it is positive, allowing for the establishment non-profit organisations, volunteers in emergency services and charities, which benefit those in need. Though the influence of emotion on our ability to reason depends on the individual, it is important to consider its capacity to overcome reason in decision-making, a knowledge issue which applies to multiple areas of import.

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