THERE are a few big ideas from the sciences of emotions and the mind that might be relevant to how we build a solid majority for independence. Sometimes these big ideas are in tension with each other, because the science isn’t resolved. So best to lay them out, and test them in practice.

Here’s one of those basic tensions. Are emotions deeply embedded in our evolved being, and triggerable in ways we often can’t control? Or are our emotions mostly constructed by language, in metaphors, stories and images, and thus much more malleable and changeable (by ourselves and others)?

The first view sits behind what was consciously called “Project Fear” in the 2014 indyref. If you successfully connect the vote for independence with chaos, harm and destruction, you stimulate what is called (in affective neuroscience) an “ancestral” emotion system. Fear is a means of ensuring your survival against a fundamental threat to your stability. You’re in the grip of such a feeling, viscerally and involuntarily. And this feeling chooses whatever “reason”, “fact” or “argument” serves its need.

Alongside fear as an emotion system, the affective neuroscientists put panic/sadness: a core survival feeling which alerts us to our disconnection from others, being separated from society or kin. Again, it’s easy to see “Better Together” as a salve to such primal anxieties. You could also call it “Project Loss”. (Cummings’ shift of the Brexit slogan – not just “take control”, but “take back control” – also aimed to appeal to this).

Rage/Anger is the last of these negative primary emotions. It’s my sense (correct me if I’m wrong) that no side explicitly and strategically sought to trigger rage/anger in 2014—which is not to say it didn’t occasionally spurt forth. You can easily see it being prodded to life in the Trump, Bolsonaro, Brexit and other populist campaigns.

Some of you may remember Alex Salmond pronouncing confidently that a “positive campaign never loses against a negative campaign”. D’oh! The brain science tells us that the “negative” emotions, when stimulated, are two to three times more impactful and lingering than the “positive” ones (which I’ll come to in a minute).

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This suggests to me that, contra Salmond, there has to be elements of fear, anger and panic in the indy case – though they can be stimulated in order to drive voters towards a more positive emotional domain. (For example, fear and panic at being cut adrift from a wider Europe, by a reckless and disruptive Brexit Westminster, is all too easily invoked – and the solution is providable. Lots of warm welcomes from Euro-leaders will certainly help.) Among the emotions specified by affective neuroscience, that positive landscape does exist. In the late Jaak Panksepp’s scheme, play, care and seeking are also emotional primes (there’s also lust, which I’ll eventually get to). These are also vital for an organism’s survival – and can also be viscerally triggered by a political campaign.

It’s surely do-able to associate Scottish independence with feelings of care – both attractively (in terms of defending our welfare and governance achievements in the Scottish Parliament), but also aversively (by highlighting the harsh and cruel social treatment dished out by Brexit Tories).

Play is the primal emotional system that sits beneath imagination, culture and arts – social pleasures. Evolutionarily, we need play to help us work out new options in otherwise constraining circumstances. So the artistic and creative communities that align with independence should re-start their efforts, and evoke a rich, moving humanity of indy in their works and practices. This “as-if” activity literally gives us more of a feeling of choice and possibility.

The emotion system of seeking, in affective neuroscience, is the basic desire and curiosity of an organism. Simply put, it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. In a time when many of us might prefer to stay under the duvet, this might be the most nebulous drive of all to incite.

But seeking’s sense of hope and optimism could raise itself, if the whole vista of Scottish indy starts to piece together in the public mind. Winnie Ewing’s “Stop the world we want to get on” is the classic encapsulation of the curiosity of this emotion. “Why not Scotland?” also taps pretty well into the seeking system. What’s out there? Can we get involved?

I mentioned earlier that there’s another school of emotion science that’s more “constructionist”. They look rather askance at the idea of these primal and evolved emotional systems. I’m a lay observer, and happy to hold their coats. But I’m going to be a magpie here: I think the constructionists also have insights on how we spread the indy message.

Their core claim is that human organisms are machines that seek stability and balance, in order to ensure their survival. The official term is that humans want to achieve a state of “homeostasis”. We get there, say the constructionists, not so much by steering ourselves according to the deep tides of seven cross-mammalian emotions, but by “prediction processing”.

Prediction processing means we’re constantly constructing internal models of how the world should work, and testing that against input coming from the outside world. Among other things, it means that we’re very open and susceptible creatures – both to shaping ourselves, and being shaped by others, to a much greater extent than we realise.

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The leading constructionist Lisa Feldman Barrett is at pains to urge her readers to improve their diet of culture and ideas – to read great novels, see great movies, sample different world cultures – in order to improve their “emotional granularity”. We live in a “social reality”, says Barrett, that crucially depends on language and culture to establish its realness – for us.

What does constructionism imply for indy campaigning? We should carefully consider how plausible we can make the world of independence look and feel, how well we can construct its “social reality”. The “Scotland loves you, EU” videos of a few years ago (twinkling flirty handsome Scots, shimmering beaches and all) were derided by many. But they conjoined the natural promise of the country with an explicit political message quite brilliantly. You’d want to live t here/here.

I don’t know if the promo videos are already planned and being filmed. But I would respectfully suggest that they go for “emotional granularity”, rather than tub-thumping, fact-brandishing messages. Fall in love (and even lust) in an indy Scotland; achieve a significant career step in an indy Scotland; nurse a beloved to their end in an indy Scotland; exult in your scruffy weans in an indy Scotland; discover something unprecedented in a lab in an Indy Scotland … you get the theme. Achieve your best self in indy.

“Feels over reals.” “Culture is upstream from politics.” The lesson from our recent decade of political upheavals is that you must attend to the emotional state of your voter first, long before you dump an avalanche of factoids, policies and new institutions on their head.

Sometimes I doubt whether Nicola Sturgeon quite has the capacity for the “mythopoetic”– the pulsing narratives, metaphors and framings – that this requires. (Salmond might have had it, but for an earlier, more patriarchal era.) But then I remember her love of contemporary literature, and her advice to other leading politicians: that reading more of it “might improve their decision-making”.

So whatever the neuroscience confirms, however pounding her schedule, I suggest the First Minister takes time to drift through her library, open herself up to the sensitivities and subtleties therein, and find the words (and feelings) to story an inspiring indy into being. Now’s the hour.