Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brave New World - Part 2

I came across an interesting article in Psychology Today, I somehow came across this link, and I confess I can't remember how I came across this link, but that's neither here nor there.


It was talking about our political beliefs, and how they are influenced by upbringing, education, and fear of death (9/11 effect)! This study also looked at characteristics of conservatives vs liberals. For example, conservatives tend to be much more black and white, whereas liberals tended to see gray - no surprise.

The conventional wisdom is that our early political stance is very much shaped by our parents, and the opinions of those who influence our thinking. Generally speaking if your parents voted democrat, you would tend to vote the same. In addition, the level of education you had also influenced your political ideology - up to a point. For example generally the more education you had, the more likely you would be liberal, with the exception of professionals in banking, finance, etc.

But what I found most fascinating was the shift of political beliefs AFTER 9/11. The authors saw a trend that after 9/11, there was a phenomenon where traditional liberals turned into conservatives.

According to the authors:
"For liberals, conservatives, and independents alike, thinking about death actually makes people more conservative—at least temporarily."
As an example, the famous ad of the little girl sitting in the field plucking a daisy, with a mushroom cloud going off in the background was an ad used by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

The article further goes on to claim:
"Solomon demonstrated that thinking about 9/11 made people go from preferring Kerry to preferring Bush. "Very subtle manipulations of psychological conditions profoundly affect political preferences," Solomon concludes. "In difficult moments, people don't want complex, nuanced, John Kerry-like waffling or sophisticated cogitation. They want somebody charismatic to step up and say, 'I know where our problem is and God has given me the clout to kick those people's asses.'" "

But using the concept of "fear" is not a new marketing tool. It's been there since the birth of Marketing. In fact, the Gillette "Safety Razor" ad campaign in the early 1900s was using this as a marketing tool to sell their product:
Gillette Safety Razor: 'When you use my razor, you are exempt from the dangers that men often encounter who allow their faces to come in contact with brush, soap, and barbershop accessories used on other people'
They were basically trading on the public's anxiety that if I don't use this product I could inadvertently attract diseases.

But again, are we then resigned to being so manipulated?

Interestingly enough, the authors propose that when test subjects are told to take a moment to think it over, they generally were able to be rational, and suppress their impulsive decisions when confronted with negative images.
"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

"The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it."

Why do I bring all of this up? As this is an election year, there is a lot of advertising and coverage that the average American Voter will be subjected to, and it is my hope, that people will vote rationally, as opposed to impulsively based on "fear-based" advertising.
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