Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This is your brain with BTO's around...

The powerful emotions that arise when our operation faces competition with a much larger farmer appear to be hard-wired. What's worse, I believe cash rents have introduced a level of arbitrariness that creates what sociologists call an unstable hierarchy. The results take a toll on our performance, happiness, and health.
Regardless of the type of hierarchy, subjects' brains were influenced by their place in it. Just viewing a picture of a "superior" player activated an area in the frontal lobe that is associated with making judgments about people. The effect was more pronounced in the unstable hierarchy, with brain regions implicated in emotional processing and social anxiety chiming in.

The study "confirms that our brains are exquisitely sensitive to position in the hierarchy," says epidemiologist Michael Marmot of University College London. "If the hierarchy is stable, we seem to ignore those below us but focus on those higher up. If unstable, and we are in danger of losing status, areas of the brain linked to emotions are aroused." [More]
It would explain why many guys I know don't even like to read articles about BTO's. Acknowledging our sensitivity to status, and learning to cope better may become a much higher priority for us. These emotions are not just powerful, they are very hard to ignore. They affect our decisions, and bleed over into other areas of our lives. It is not, perhaps, an Oprah-esque pursuit to understand how they evolved and why they can be disruptive in modern situations. They are obviously part of our human inheritance.

Therefore, maybe we need better defenses from competition than simply expecting preferential treatment because we are established farmers and community members.

I'm not saying good community standing isn't important and without its own rewards, just simply it hasn't appeared to be a sufficient counter-strategy to date for competing with large operations.

[via Andrew Sullivan]


Anonymous said...

I think you have touched on a topic that effects all but the very few of us. I have been farming for 35 years and can honestly say that almost every one of those years at some point I have had boughts of anxiety with am I going to survive, can I get more acres, how?
I am getting too old now but if younger I would be discouraged. Maybe thats why my son and nephew don't seem to want to take the ball and run.


Ol James said...

...then again...the "Gubbermint" might just step in and say BTO's are attempting to become a monopoly. Then they can regulate the going's on's and let the BTO's buy them out...just like every big time company has for decades. Folks wonder why big business and lobbyist get so much from the "Gubbermint"?? They run it, or at least rent the biggest portion.
Mr Joe, one day your son and nephew will realize the grass may be greener on the other side but it never is as good.

Anonymous said...


A couple of years ago I saw your presentation including the money/happiness graph. I think we need to remember that truism, and don't let the BTO's bring you down. Do a good job, know your numbers, pay a market rent, and manage your risk.

Why chase a "flat" curve?