Monday, November 1, 2010

Brand Obama: Conform You Fool

Ridicule is the first and last argument of a fool  ~Charles Simmons

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. - William Shakespeare

On November 4, 2008, America changed. On that day, an inexperienced candidate with a scant resume and views that contrasted with the majority of the population was elected to the most powerful office in the world, the Presidency of the United States of America. Brand Obama is an ongoing series that chronicles the powerful psychological techniques used in this improbable campaign.

Other Brand Obama posts include:

The Spider and The Fly
The Drunkard's Search
Inoculation and the Art of Persuasion
Mesmerizing Voters with Hypnotic Speech Techniques
New Math and the Rise of the Unwed Mother

For a candidate that promised to bring the country together,  Obama and his surrogates often go out of their way to deliberately insult roughly half the voting population by calling them fools. While it may seem counter intuitive, sociological research has shown that effective persuasion often involves convincing someone that they are wrong by belittling them. Sadly, this has dark implications for our democracy since this research was used to explain how an advanced nation used this technique to dupe its citizens into participating in the holocaust.

Below is a clip of the president at his belittling best (note the sneers from the crowd):

Here is his running mate, Joe Biden, Vice President, calling half the population stupid (even MSNBC is left scratching their heads on this one):

Lastly, here is a clip of Christine Amanpour, host of ABC News, This Week, parroting the DNC party line by telling what is now the majority of voters that they are to slow to realize all the great things that Barak Obama has done for us:

What the elites that support Obama understand is how the average person will readily abandon their convictions to be liked particularly if a view is presented by a purported authority.

Smile Your on Candid Camera

What it took university researchers years to discover, Allen Funt, creator of candid camera instinctively knew: Humans are hard wired to conform. They will often do almost anything when pressured by peers. The below clip from his TV show offers a stark illustration of this:

 Solomon Asch - The Stooge Conforms

One of the first sociological researchers to confirm just how fragile the average persons beliefs are in the face of societal pressures was Soloman Asch. With one simple yet cleverly designed experiment he was able to demonstrate that the vast majority of people would go along with the crowd regardless of whether they were being led off a cliff.

In the experiment, Asch showed a group of secret insiders and one stooge a series of two cards like the one below, He would then first ask the secret insiders what line number on the second card matched the one on the first, During the first part of the series the insiders were instructed to choose the correct number (in this case two) but, as the series progressed, they were instructed to all start uniformly selected one of the incorrect numbers. Surprisingly, the roughly 75% of the time, the stooge would also pick the incorrect number after hearing all the insiders select it.

Here is a brief video demonstration of the experiment:

Asch not only demonstrated that power of social pressure but was also able to answer why this was so:

Solomon Asch Opinions and Social Pressure (1955)

"Why did the subjects conform so readily? When they were interviewed after the experiment, most of them said that they did not really believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought "peculiar." A few of them said that they really did believe the group's answers were correct.

Asch conducted a revised version of his experiment to find out whether the subjects truly did not believe their incorrect answers. When they were permitted to write down their answers after hearing the answers of others, their level of conformity declined to about one third what it had been in the original experiment.

Apparently, people conform for two main reasons: because they want to be liked by the group and because they believe the group is better informed than they are. Suppose you go to a fancy dinner party and notice to your dismay that there are four forks beside your plate. When the first course arrives, you are not sure which fork to use. If you are like most people, you look around and use the fork everyone else is using. You do this because you want to be accepted by the group and because you assume the others know more about table etiquette than you do."

Harry Mills, one of the foremost experts on persuasion, even devotes a whole chapter in his classic work to the subject:
Artful persuasion: how to command attention, change minds, and influence people By Harry Mills

Interestingly enough, he lists another method of this type of persuasion that is also commonly used by political campaigns:

Stanley Milgram - Plumbing the Murky Depths

In a disturbing simple experiment, Stanley Milgram was able to demonstrate just how easy it is to turn an average person into a genocidal monster. Here is what Adolf Eichmann, an average bureaucrat, who was credited with being an architect of the holocaust had to say about the subject:"Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one's need to think."

Below are clips of the original experiment conducted in May of 1962:

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