The emotional brain

Blue or black pen? Rice or noodle? Most of our decisions are not rational. When we choose something, we often let the intuitive part of our brain decide. We don’t make rational decisions for each little thing in our lives…but most of them impact our wallet. We just buy without deep thinking. If your financial literacy training workshops only focus on the rational part of your participants’ brain and do not include their intuitive part… they are not going to work. Why? Because the “brain” who decides most of the time is the intuitive one. It is vain to encourage participants to only use their rational brain for each and every decision involving money. It is not how human beings work – that would require too much effort for every single decision. So we have to “invite” the emotional or intuitive brain to the training room. To deliver effective financial literacy training, you have to speak to the decider, the one who holds the purse: the intuitive brain. How? By using games, colour, pictures, easy comparisons (intuition works a lot with associations of ideas) and make the content appealing and easily retrievable for the brain … next time participants open their purse.
Here are two training ideas to engage the “emotional” brain:
Training idea 1: prioritizing expenses
Writing a list of numbers to budget and prioritise expenses is tedious… and is a rational task. How to engage the “intuitive” brain in budgeting and prioritising? Make choices visible and tangible: use a piece of paper to stand for the income; use other pieces of paper for the expenses. No numbers! The size of each piece is proportional to the expense. Use colourful pictures! Then let participants place these expenses on the income paper: they will have to choose which ones fit (they don’t fit all). Go further: add an exceptional expense, then a yearly expense like a school fee. The intuition is engaged, and at this point is asking for help from the rational brain. And this is exactly what we encourage participants to do once outside the training room and back to the market!
Training idea 2: planning concept
Our brain is short-term wired and planning for the future is not natural and requires thinking carefully. How to encourage participants to keep the future in mind when they manage money on a daily basis? Make planning simple and stick in their minds. Start from what participants know. If your target groups are farmers, take a bag of seed and put them in different containers: seeds for the next harvest, seeds for this month’s meals, next month, etc… Don’t tell – do it with actual seeds. Then replace the seeds by toy banknotes and put pictures of expenses to plan for in each container (rent, school fee…). You can also use a bottle of water… imagine you are crossing a desert, walking for five days with only one bottle of water. If you don’t plan, you are going to drink too much first and run out of water.  You need to plan how much you can drink every day. Draw five lines on the bottle: five days + emergency. Use the same bottle and replace the days by “rent”, “school fee”…
Find this training material and more ideas on our online platform.

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