Excess Noise Knowledge Base

Definitions for those who work in communications and perception


Filter 1: Hardwiring

…or what we were born with

Babies cry in the dark, especially if they are separated from their parents. The reason is simple, it’s a way for parents to find them. This act has been genetically programmed and refined for generations. Imagine humans pre-light switch, out in the savannah, if we were to remain quiet, parents would not find us, and we would not survive. Darwin called it selection. Others have called it instinct.  We call this first filter — or point of reference used by humans to evaluate a message — Hardwiring.

The human body has built-in, hardwired, genetic coding that gives it the necessary information to survive and reproduce. If a message satisfies hardwired needs, it will be accepted more readily than if it does not. Examples of Hardwiring include dislike of extreme ambient temperatures, fear of strong winds, hunger, thirst, the need to urinate and the drive for sex. No one can live without food, water, sleep or air, no matter how valiant. Human beings cannot change some things. You cannot stay under water for one hour; you are not a fish. You cannot stare at the sun for ten minutes; you are not a flower. You cannot see in the dark; you are not a bat. Hardwired human characteristics are common to 100% of the species. Exceptions tend to lead to death or great discomfort.

Try reasoning with someone who is sleepy. Try motivating your team when the thermometer hits 40ºC (104ºF). Get the average vacationer to dive off the cliffs of Acapulco. These messages will not work well because they go against hardwired survival imperatives.

This is the first space the brain turns to when analyzing a message. It happens deep in the oldest parts of our brain, the parts that give us the adrenalin to fight an opponent of similar size or flee when we face a bear. Before we get to thinking about liking something we are thinking about whether it will harm us or otherwise appeal to a genetically inherited set of instructions.

If you are creating a message that asks someone to engage in an activity that goes against hardwiring, your job is tough. However, if you are asking someone to act in a way that your mind considers genetically favorable (e.g. reproduction) then your message is more likely to succeed. Yes, sex sells.

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This glossary of definitions is not intended as an academic reference. It is an exercise in thinking on our part. We hope to grow it and welcome any suggestions you may have.