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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 447: Persuasion and Human Nature

This continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

The first type of processing we can employ is known as systematic processing or the central route to persuasion, and it involves careful consideration of message content and the ideas it contains. Such processing requires effort, and it absorbs a great deal of our information-processing capacity. The second approach, known as heuristic processing or the peripheral route to persuasion, involves the use of simple rules of thumb or mental shortcuts, such as the belief that experts' statements can be trusted, or the idea that "if it makes me feel good, I'm in favour of it." This kind of processing requires less effort and allows us to react to persuasive messages in an automatic manner. It occurs in response to cues in the message or situation that evoke various mental shortcuts (eg, beautiful models evoke the "What's beautiful is good and worth listening to" heuristic). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

If we were to think about - and I mean really think about - some of the things that we automatically accept about life, then we may change our views. We are far too willing to trust that other people have our best interests at heart and far too eager to believe that we are innocent.

Alas, it is the dichotomy of human nature: that we are both innocent and guilty at the same time. In a way, we are born into this world as innocent - little creatures just being alive - with no purpose of our own, and, in a way, no wills of our own. We did not ask for life to be thrust upon us thus. We did not ask for parents that would essentially ruin us. We did not ask for a society that is fundamentally psychotic. So, what do we do, innocent little us's? We just try to fit in. We imitate and absorb what we see around us because the one thing that we do understand independently is that we are the same as everyone else, and so we would like to be like everyone else (For some of us, "everyone else" may only be a few people).

On the other hand, we see the world around us: we see people and animals living in conditions that we would never want to live in; we consciously lie on a regular basis, knowing full well that it is "wrong"; we do and say things to other people that we would not want done or said to us; we knowingly participate in an economic system that is based on exploitation and inequality; and we delude ourselves into thinking that the world, economy and society will just get better on their own and that we are absolutely not responsible, or maybe just a little bit (enough to buy grocery bags instead of plastic and use energy efficient lightbulbs).

It doesn't help that what we are taught is that (for example) beautiful things are always good (eg, angels are beautiful and they are good, princes and princesses are beautiful and they are good etc), or that an expert is someone who cannot be wrong regarding anything within their field of expertise.

So here we are, believing what we believe because we don't want to put in the effort to actually consider the validity of our beliefs. Well, that's what a bunch of "experts" say anyway. 

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