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The Power of Symbols

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Symbols have been a very important essence of humanity, as it has been always used to express a message to people without the use of real words. As humans have a tendency to always try to make sense of their surroundings, be it consciously or subconsciously hence apart from words, signals, and gestures, symbols are the other medium of communication to pass on a message. 

Our world is filled with cultures and scripts, which also means something said or written by you may not be legible to a person from another part of the world. On the other hand, symbols have no language and everyone from any culture can understand them. 

The power of symbols is so prominent that large multinational companies like Nike and Apple only promote their symbols to create an impact on the audience’s mind so they can recognise and relate to the product. This is a very innovative way of marketing as they make the company symbol meaningful in the eyes of consumers and people tend to get a hold of these products as they are charged with some meaning. 

The science of symbols

Now, if you find all the above explanations made up, then let us throw some light on the science of symbols which will make you believe in the power of symbols. Symbols are very different from the language we speak for communication, and there is a scientific reason for it. The outer part of the brain which is called the neocortex that is believed to be the newest and revolutionary addition to human beings corresponds to us understanding languages and logics. This is the main reason why animals have not developed the ability to communicate in any language, as their brains have not developed this far. 

The more primitive part of our brain which is called the limbic system corresponds to symbols and meanings. This part of the brain is also responsible for our behaviour, emotion, and decision-making power, which is why this part of the brain can influence and drive you to make emotional decisions as compared to the language or logic part of the brain. 

In fact, if you have read history, you will know our primitives used to communicate in symbols as their neocortex part of the brain had not developed yet. 

The division between these two brain parts is the reason why sometimes we get confused between a logical decision or our gut feelings. Brands make use of this division by associating strong emotions with their product symbols to get their sales up. The same can be said about religions where strong sentiments are associated with a symbol the disciples could easily recognise.

This leads us to our conclusion about symbols and their power. Symbols are a pictorial representation of a cause that is charged with deeper meaning and conveys a message which is basically to motivate the people, such as to win a fight or represent a community of people. We could take the transgender symbols as an example for the trans community, which strongly represents and brings together the whole community. After all, the power of symbols when harnessed right can reach straight to the emotional part of our brain and it is a known fact that emotions have always overruled logic.

Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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