Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Influencing, Duping and Misleading Blog Readers

image credit A Beautiful Revolution

I've just been messing about with a few blogging tools. The first is Google Battle which I used to see which keywords come up most. I was interested to see that Dupe beats Gullible and that Influencing beats Persuading, so including them in the title is a bit of an experiment.

The second tool was Google Trends I've never used this before, so as a bit of fun I thought I'd compose a blog inspired by the top ten trend terms to see what happens:

Well it seems that end of the year can find your soullow this can happen when the temprature drops soullow that your find that your zune frozen. If this happens you don't want to go the way of Todd Doxey and the simplist way to avoid this is to make sure you have reset zune. Once you have done this you can turn your attention to the more important things in life such as wondering if the words Dane Cook Married is really a sentence, however reaching a conclusion on this is about as likely as winning the Idaho Lottery. If that is the case then you might consider watching Bachelor Party 2 instead, which might be one of the super solutions for a prosperous New Year, especially if your Idaho Raffle ticket comes in which would make you almost as rich as Barbara Streisand

Well I hope this has been a positive influence on your day and that you don't think you have been duped and mislead! Happy New Year Blogsters!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

How Come Steven Gerrard Deserves Support?


News on 20th March 2009 assualt charge dropped but Gerrard still faces charge of Affray. this is not an inconsequential charge for a celebrity and supposed sports leader. As wikipedia explains:

A person is guilty of affray if a person uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and the person's conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

Original Post:

The public announcement by Liverpool Football club that they are giving Steven Gerrard all the support he needs is staggering in its self referenced naivite

Whilst I can understand that they might wish to advise and counsel their player privately, to link his service to the club to a justification for the need to support him is surely misguided. This reads as 'because he is a star his alleged bad behaviour should be seen in a different light to the general public'.

Steven Gerrard regardless of the regard anyone might have for his playing skills has been arrested and charged with a serious crime. It is also true that he may not be found guilty, although the Police seem to be convinced of his involvement.

This endorsement of Steven Gerrard's behaviour is yet another misguided intervention by a football club that over inflates the egos and sense of being untouchable in their players. This is a public relations disgrace and the club should be held to account. They should also learn to more circumspect about the impact of their public statements and the connotations that they contain.

The message? Behave badly in a high profile position of responsibility and you will be cosseted and cuddled. Where is the sense in that? The likely consequences will be similar displays and expectations from Saturday and Sunday league junior wannabes.

A more appropriate statement might have read "We are ashamed that these charges have been brought to a senior player at Liverpool Football Club and remind young people that if they are involved or associated in any way with incidents of violent behaviour they will be subject to the full force of the law"

Support for Mr Gerrard is taking 'You'll Never Walk Alone' a step too far!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Gullible Life Form Observed In Space

NASA has released an image of a world inhabited by a gullible life-form.

Many of this world's inhabitants believe in the existence of a supernatural red and white clothed old man who places piles of colourful paper under dead pine trees.

This endemic gullibility even leads them to believe that they can use up all of the planets resources and pollute the atmosphere which culminates once a year in the celebration known as 'Ex Mass'(which of course the planet will be), that predicts the ultimate destruction of their world.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

To Kill A Mocking Bird Synchronicity

The passing of Robert Mulligan director of the film version of Harper Lee's book To Kill A Mocking Bird is spooky news.

Last night I was late night shopping in ASDA / Wal Mart in the UK and browsing books with my partner. Looking up and down the shelves we saw nothing, until I bent down to look at what I thought was an empty shelf.

It wasn't...on its own at the back, out of sight was a copy of To Kill A Mocking Bird.

It was recommended a few weeks ago by my brother as his favourite read, and it was one of the examination books I had at high school. I never read it and blagged the exam with cursory knowledge about Boo Radley et al from a revision text.

So I've never read it, my partner never bought it last night. Guess what she's going to get for Xmas :)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

How Do We Get Into Debt?

People in debt are sleep walkers

No doubt many of us are familiar with this famous quote from Charles Dickens:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery." credit The Quotations Page

So how come something as blindingly obvious to so many people as how we get into debt still results in so many of us struggling to repay credit cards and the like? Have we all been really gullible? Are we really all that stupid? Are we all financially and arithmetically inept?

I guess in some ways we have to take some of the responsibility for getting into debt. I don't mean this is a direct sense though. I mean it in the sense that significant numbers of us have not put any effort into becoming more aware of the commercial techniques that are used to encourage us to part with our money which then leads us to getting into debt.

Much of our indebtedness is due to the manipulation of situation we find ourselves in when we shop. The places we go to buy things are engineered to lower or psychological defences. Our logical faculties are bypassed by appeals to emotional cues. Our conscious decision making is bypassed and our unconscious is spoken to.

Enter any retail environment, and, not withstanding the general societal norms that support 'acquiring things' (materialism and consumerism) we enter a world designed to take our money off us.

Walk through the door and you enter what is known as the 'decompression zone' that open 5 meters between the door and the goods. This zone is designed to ensure that you to change your mind state from an 'in control rational shopper' into a 'less rational consumer'. You are then more open minded to the sensory assault that confronts you, the music that not only implies you are in a different place (club, bar, home) but also something that 'distracts' your rational thought. You pay attention to the music and not to your rational faculties. In this undefended state you become far more open to the myriad of messages that are put to you on promotional material and carefully crafted sales assistant behaviour and messages.

The environment is then designed to 'take you away from stress and towards relaxation' and ultimately happiness. The happier you are the more endorphins your brain releases which are so addictive that you seek more pleasurable experiences, so you go and buy stuff you don't need because you want to look and feel good. Your sense of identity demands it.

So where do you go to get the money you need? The banks of course!. Well...guess what Banks are Retailers They use exactly the same methods as 'ordinary' retailers and so we have a debt fuelling system. The really deceptive aspect of this is that they convey the image that they are impartial advisers The latest UK Nat West Money Sense TV advert actually says that the people you meet are NOT salespeople! Really? dressed in corporate uniforms, meeting you on their premises which are full of sales messages? This is overt situation manipulation. These people cannot be impartial.

Read any basic text on Social Influence and it will explain that 're-framing' or giving a new name to something that makes a new association that disguises the real intent is as old as the hills. Sales people become consultants, become advisers, become 'your friend', who you trust and base your purchase decisions on!

Another 'wheeze' is the advice they give to re-finance loans. So many of us misunderstand debt and its repayment that we are tempted to extend loans. Don't do it! The initial element of re-payment is the interest which the banks make sure they get off you first. By asking you to extend the loan the 'clock' is re-set and you start paying interest again and so if you find you can pay the debt back earlier you are still in hock.

We are not taught 'retail and advertising psychology or financial management' at schools. We should be. The techniques are not 'difficult' they are simply 'off curriculum'

In our modern interconnected fast paced worlds we should be teaching our kids the rudiments of the commercial practices to which they are continually exposed. This is real education. So tell will knowing "Ou est la Boulangerie" or "1066 was the Norman Invasion of Britain" help you in the modern world.

Try telling your credit card company "I know I'm in debt but I can conjugate a verb like the best of them!" I was in debt, I am in debt, I will be in debt, I have debted? I am debting? I will debt? How about a new verb 'debting', referring to the state of being entirely ignorant of the sophisticated commercial techniques applied to gullible consumers?

Remember banks are NOT services they are purveyors of financial products
you will know that talking in your sleep walking will lead to debt.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Righteous Kill Advertising - A Self Righteous Thrill?

image credit - flikr user coconono

The placing of an advertising poster promoting the film Righteous Kill in Stockwell Tube Station where Jean Charles de Menezes was killed has been roundly condemned by the British Advertising Authority

In their judgement they say that "We understood the siting of the poster at the station was unintentional"

An alternative explanation might be more skeptical.

Even a cursory glance at much of the output of the Advertising Business Bubble reveals it as frequently self absorbed with its own creativity. This obsession with shock (remember those Benetton adverts?) is superficially justified as acting upon the findings of social psychology which suggest that 'Salience' is necessary to attract attention in a world full of informational noise.

An almost exclusive obsession with Salience pre-disposes the less rounded members of the advertising fraternity to believe that their role is about attracting attention and little else. The ends therefore justify the means and ethical 'norms' become skewed in an atypical self -referencing business environment. These businesses are child like in their 'foot stamping' attention seeking behaviour.

The very fact that I am writing this blog post betrays what I feel (affective response guys!) is the reality of what the real motivation behind the advert placement was compared to the logical explanation given (cognitive response) that it was simply an unfortunate mistake. Do me a favour!

By acting and then seeking forgiveness, the people who placed the advert in Stockwell Tube station where Jean Charles de Menezes was killed reveal their true intentions. They knew that the approbation would attract more attention than the advert. Meta Salience is achieved through a self righteous thrill

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Why Do People Always Tell Me What To Do?

I'm sure we have all been on the receiving end of phrases such as "What you should do is...", or "What you need to do is..." and "You must do...". Just listen in to any mobile phone conversation on public transport, in the local bar, at the office, in fact any social situation and you will hear someone telling someone else what the should do with their lives.

Often this well intentioned advice it is simply a bad social habit. A habit that is based on the assumption that what is good for one person has to be good for another.

How does it happen? Well, in some ways the root of the problem can lie with the 'YOU' because it can be your lack of clarity about what to do in situations that leaves a sort of 'advice vacuum' which many people love to fill, and this is how people can take advantage of you.

Because the world is packed full of information our brains can't cope with every little detail. So in order to manage this we all rely on what social psychologists call heuristics. These are 'rules of thumb' or mental short cuts that we use to save us having to work things out from scratch everytime we come across them.

Just imagine if everytime you saw a naked flame you had to investigate it in detail to find out it hurt you when you touched it! To save having to do this 'our rule of thumb' mechanism writes a little module in our brain which says 'flickering red and orange things are hot and dangerous'

We use things like this all the time. 'people in white coats are knowledgeable', 'high price indicates quality', 'red sky at night shepherds delight'

These 'short cuts' represent our cumulative experience of life which we then use to explain why things happened in the past and what will happen in the future. That's why a person who is always telling other people what to do is so quick with advice. Rules of thumb are useful but they mean that we trade off accuracy of thinking for speed of thinking. They are helpful generalisations but they can be wrong. Social psychologists Tversky and Kahneman identified three types of shortcut.

The Availibility shortcut. These are shortcuts that we use to say 'the more we aware of something the more we think it can happen to us'. e.g. If the news is always reporting burgalry then we think there is an increased chance of it happening to us'

The Representativeness shortcut
used to determine how ‘typical’ something/one is. e.g. 'all men/women are like that'

The Anchoring and Adjustment short cut
e.g. using self as a basis for ability to use a computer. My knowledge and keen interest in computers 'must be shared by everyone else'

People who tell us what to do, people who take advantage of good natured people, people who take advantage of you at work make use of these 'shortcuts'. For example, 'a messy desk means you are badly organised', 'I think this particular report is important therefore everyone else will','s/he's the Technical Director they've go to know what they're talking about' etc

Usually our 'rules of thumb' have worked successfully in the past and so we assume they will be valid in the future. This is a trap! The problem is that our 'theories for success/failure' become taken for granted and we presume that they appropriate for everyone else's circumstances too.

Another factor is the position that the advisor takes in relation to the advised. The adviser assumes that they are knowledgeable and the person they are advising is lacking in some way that needs to be improved. This general approach is characterised by people such as Virginia Satir who derived behaviour typologies such as The Blamer, or Eric Berne who talked about Persecutors.

People who utter phrases such as 'you must' also give an indication of the extent of their self-awareness. Which is very little. They are unaware they are advising from a set of assumptions. They are prescribing solutions rather than working with the person they wish to help to uncover alternative options and ways forward.

There is, of course, a judgement to made as to context. In situations of grave danger then it might be very appropriate to tell somebody that they must do something. In general social situations though this is rarely the case.

You might try this sometime if ever someone you know is being insistent with their advice. You might ask them 'should I?', 'must I?' Remember the context though. If someone has responsibility for you then they have a certain authority to insist on things. That said, developing your self confidence and getting clarity on what you should do independently helps keep things in balance.

Another classic situation in which people tell others what to do is known as The Double Bind in which instructions to another person are known as 'injunctions' (not to be confused with the legal term meaning to stop somebody doing something. The playing out of a double bind is subtle and complicated and makes use of meta or abstracted messages between the people involved. This means that that the content of statement such as 'You really should go and see your sick Grandmother' not only carries the primary injunction there is a secondary injunction that 'you should visit her because if you don't I will think you are a bad person'

One other very interesting thing about people who are always telling you what to do, is just that. They are very good at telling you about the 'what' and are remarkably silent about the 'how'.

And the most prolific place to see this? Business and Marketing blogs. They tend to be full of Normative advice on the assumption that they all know better than you.

Try The Huffington Post for 50 Office Phrases You Should Never Use

No Bull's 26 phrases you should never use in writing

15 places you must put your keyword phrase an the why behind itfrom Niche Bot

39 Phrases Everyone Should Know How To Use

So if you are asking the question, Why Do People Always Tell Me What To Do?
check for 'short cuts' and check which 'mode' they are talking to in. Start paying attention to the nature of the advice rather than the content of the advice.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

X Factor oops

OK I was wrong :) Well done Alexandra - Hallelujah!

X Factor Result. JLS Win.

Have you thought about how you can prove that your X in the X factor counts? Sure it can be shown that vote was registered, but just how exactly can it be proven beyond doubt that the votes are reflected in the result.

I anticipate a JLS win.

This is because music market circumstances and the story-line provide too much fuel for the X Factor Winter fire. First group ever to win etc etc etc.

The Leaping Leprechaun will be hair today and gone tomorrow. Alexandra, clearly talented is too similar to Leona. She will have a career long after tonight though.

You might believe your vote counted, but then you believed in Santa once too.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Flash Gordon Brown Saves The World

UK Prime Minister Flash Gordon Brown told parliament today how he had saved the world.

Wearing a conventional business suit to emphasise the understated nature of his claim rather than his typical red outfit he was taken to task by opposition leader Ming of the Conservatives, who ridiculed the idea.

Fortunately the Queen thinks differently.

Flash - a-ah - saviour of the universe
Flash - a-ah - he'll save everyone of us
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Flash - a-ah - he's a miracle
Flash - a-ah - king of the impossible

He's for everyone of us
Stand for everyone of us
He'll save with a mighty hand
Every man every woman
Every child - with a mighty flash

Flash - a-ah
Flash - a-ah - he'll save everyone of us

Just a man
With a man's courage
He knows nothing but a man
But he can never fail
No one but the pure in heart
May find the golden grail
Oh oh - oh oh

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

British Attempt to Re-Colonise America Rumbled

"Well Barack, only a few more days go and we're THIS far away from making the plan work"

The word is out the Obama family have been a British sleeper cell working for M16 as part of an audacious attempt to regain the USA as part of the British Empire.

Last minute legal attempts to deny Obama the Presidency have tried to throw a spanner in the works however the project still looks on course.

In a thinly veiled nod to the the pending coup, New York state is to be renamed Barackshire in homage to Berkshire home of Windsor Castle where allegedly his father was recruited to the cause by her majesty Queen Elizabeth over tea and crumpets. It is reported that the tea came from one of the crates rescued from Boston Bay being kept under lock and key in the Tower of London to be used for espionage recruitment purposes only.

In the deal America will be granted the same status as the Isle of Man, being allowed its own parliament and a preferential tax regime. Military command will however come under the Crown and a changing of the guard ceremony will be enacted at Disney World, along with opening of the Buckingham Palace Casino at Las Vegas.

In a financial deal the US will convert to £Pounds although UK pennies will become cents, which makes sense (sic) because of the switch to decimilisation. All distances will be measured in 'Klicks' to win over the hearts and minds of the military action film devouring red necks in both countries.

In a statement made by the British government they said "We are naturally delighted at this move, its been a long time coming, we can also lay to rest any Irish claims based on the O'bama argument"

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Should Atheists Take Out Spiritual Insurance Policies?

Well that's put the kybosh on it. Taking this just a freak quiz
has got me pegged as an atheist.

Dammed for all time now - bah...and all thanks to be lured off the path by Mary Ann LOL.

Well what do I care I know my Squidoo Lenses will live on till hell freezes over.

Is the US Car Industry Taking Everyone For A Ride?

President elect Barack Obama has a golden opportunity to 'encourage' the US car industry to re-evaluate its structure and perhaps more importantly the types of products they create.

Being an industry that is so tightly integrated into the practical and emotional needs of people must tempt it to arrogance with regard to its indispensability.

What a great game that must be. Become so big that government dare not let you go under because of the social consequences! Well looking at it as a layman the behaviour seems remarkably akin to extortion

The BBC write:

The 2008 winner of the Nobel economics prize Paul Krugman said he doubted the US car sector would survive, but that it was worth supporting it in the short term.
"In the end these companies will probably disappear," the economics professor at Princeton University said.

Well if that is the case then maybe Obama should simply turn on the windscreen washers filled with extra strong 'I ain't gullible fluid' and wipe them away.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Lapland Xmas Attractions Having A Laugh At Customer's Expense

The one thing that scammers and con-merchants have is an instinct for 'situation'.

They know that if the circumstances are set up in the right way the normal psychological defences of people can be breached. This seems to have happened twice recently in the UK with two Lapland Christmas 'theme parks'. The first was in Dorset UK where a woman was scammed for £3000. The place was eventually shut down The second is in Staffordshire UK

Both examples seem to take advantage of the 'perfect storm' of Christmas, Credit Crunch and Consistency.

The organisers of these 'theme parks' know that going to Lapland Proper is clearly out of the reach of most pockets at this time. They understand the notion of 'pester power', and they understand the psychological urge that parents have to consistently provide a great Christmas experience for the kids just like last year even though money might be tight.

So, when somebody promises that they can make your kids dreams come true with a Lapland experience they tap into the 'brand associations' that have been created over the years. Just do it it yourself...Imagine...a trip to Lapland to see Father Christmas and his reindeer.
...What happened? I bet you created an image of expectation in your minds eye and that for £25/$15 that would be a price worth paying to see the smile on the faces of the kids. The next thing you do is 'promise' the kids that they're going to 'Lapland to see Santa'

That's when they've got you!! In order to remain 'consistent' you have to 'go to Lapland' and all critical judgement flies out the window. You end up out of pocket embarrased and angry because the 'promise' didn't match the cheapskate reality.

I suggest having the last laugh and do something else.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Karen Matthews: The People of Batley Carr Were Not Gullible

The sheer number of victims of Mother of all liars Karen Matthews and her less than brilliant confederate Michael Donovan is huge.

The whole community of Batley Carr were set up for a fall by the elaborate confidence trick of the Shannon Matthews kidnap.

It is clear from the residents of Batley Carr that they are naturally hurt and embarrassed by the way that their good neighbourly attitude and care for others was taken advantage of. This is rich territory for the Guller An affront to a community's identity of itself is betrayal of the highest order.

What is certain however is that it was not their fault. Frequently we are all guilty of blaming a person's character for the things that befall them rather than the situation they find themselves in. Known as Fundamental Attribution Error its that phenomenon of blaming the victim for their treatment.

Shopping – ‘he wastes his money’ yet the retail situation is created
to reduce our rational thinking and defences.

Charity – its the fault of the ‘lazy’ individual not their

Headlines ‘Callous uncaring wife kills husband in fit of rage’ yet she was bullied for 20 years

According to Anthony Pratkanis there is no such thing as the 'gullibility gene'. Something he explored in Pratkanis (2006) Why Would Anyone Believe Such a thing? A Social Influence analysis.In Sterberg,Roediger, Halpern. Critical Thinking in psychology

The people of Batley Carr were set up in a situation that was skillfully landscaped by Karen Matthews and her tearful performances. They were led to believe that she was a distraught mother, when her tears were more likely the expression of the inner psychological in-balance she was experiencing between the her knowledge of the truth of the situation and the lie she was expressing.

And the irony?...Matthews claims she's a victim. Well she would wouldn't she.