How are ideas made interesting?

My curiosity about communication and the expression of ideas urged me to read the book Made to Stick written by two incredible brothers, Chip and Dan Heath. It aims to answer: why do some ideas survive while others die? Most importantly, what makes ideas stick?

The book talks about this particular example…

One day, The Centre for Science in the Public Interest sent bags of theatre popcorn from three big US cities for a nutritional analysis. In a typical bag of popcorn, there was found to be 37 grams of saturated fat when a normal diet should contain no more than 20. Shocking.

Despite the alarm, the CSPI needed to spread the message in a way that everyone would understand how serious this was. I mean, think about it, most of us have no idea when looking at the nutritional content behind our favourite bag of cookies. 37 grams. So what? Is that good or bad?

So in the September of 1992, CSPI held a press conference. The message it presented was “A medium sized movie butter popcorn contains more artery clogging fat than a bacon and eggs breakfast, a Big Mac, and a dinner of steak.” They laid out these foods for display for the television cameras, and the idea was to demonstrate that all this saturated fat is stuffed into a single bag of popcorn.

The story was a sensation, making the front pages of USA today, with headline writers cracking, “Lights, Camera, Cholesterol!”

CSPI’s success makes me question: if I know something about the world, how do I communicate my idea so that people care?

We are humans. We are wired to feel things. By watching the display of food, people were utterly disgusted, they felt gross, their emotions were elicited, and they were moved. Similarly, in my university lecture for Communications, I always wonder how every word of my professor makes an impact. When Dr. Rahman speaks, we understand, remember, and re-tell. How so? Because content never lives on its own. Through the constant sparking electricity between him and us, he makes it come to life.

Amongst many other factors, I’ve learnt that at least one thing that nurtures ideas so they can make a difference is emotion. A good idea awakens emotion. And good speakers know how to open emotion gates.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

73 thoughts on “How are ideas made interesting?

  1. Emotion is often used to sell an idea, but that has little to do with whether an idea is good or bad, of substance or of nonsense. In fact, I tend to resist emotional appeals because they make me suspicious about the idea’s content. I was brought up to believe ideas need to survive the “free market” of critical analysis.

    We push, and are motivated by, our hearts, but our heads must steer the ship.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My Spanish teacher in HS told us that the goal of any teacher should be to have students remember 3 facts/ideas from each lecture.

    I’ve always had a hard time with memory, and it’s not just forgetting or it being bad alone. It pulls the wrong answer, an answer, but not the one anyone wants. On my IQ test, it was deemed, I think, intrusions. They would tell me to remember the word “butterfly”, and I would say “flower.”

    I started writing to fix myself, I believe. Studying and taking a few classes also helps, but I sometimes get jumbled. I’m sure this has happened to you when you have to do so much work or you are tired. If the assignment is Stowe pg 112, after I am finished, I will forget to put my last name at the top of the page or simply write “Kaela.” Today, I forgot to write “Imperfection” and wrote “Imperfect.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think this is also one of the reasons most people nowadays prefer videos, podcasts, movies etc. over texts. Because those things, at least ostensibly, they convey more; they incorporate elements that touch all the senses of the audience.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Interest is kind of like an emotion, no? Just a thought… or provocative of more than just thoughts? It was an enjoyable read with good questions. I think those questions lead to the reason we have things like marketing strategies and “get the word out” campaigns. How can we speak to people in a way where they can “hear it” or receive the message. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What if he had said, “Although high content of cholesterol in the popcorn bag is very high, if you only partake in it occasionally, the negative effects are minimized and the enjoyment with family and friends is more maximized!” In this way, he would have given approval on a moderate indulgence. What would people have thought about that?

    Liked by 1 person

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