Weapons of Mass Deception
One of the most-watched documentaries on Netflix right now is The Social Dilemma, an exposé of how Big Tech is manipulating our thinking and behavior in ways both grand and minute. And most of the time, we’re completely oblivious to it.
These companies prey upon the weaknesses in our cerebral programming; using our anxieties, our hopes, and our brain’s craving for dopamine to shepherd us into performing actions desired by their advertisers — whether it’s consuming certain content, buying certain products, or voting a certain way.
This is a massive social issue that we’re only beginning to become aware of as a society. How much more control do these companies wield over our thoughts and behavior than we currently realize? How much is acceptable? How do we protect ourselves going forward?
Addressing and attempting to “unwire” ourselves from their programming efforts won’t be easy — as any parent who has tried to wean their child off of social media for even a few days (or hours!) already knows.
But as big of an issue as this is, it’s not new, nor is it limited to the Tech sector. Marketers and politicians have been intentionally exploiting our evolutionary wiring for decades, in order to influence us to do their bidding.
The Psychology Of Persuasion
One of the best books explaining the psychology behind this manipulation is Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
It’s a remarkable book. I highly recommend everyone read it in order to understand the vast minefield of psychological traps being set for us on a daily basis.
Cialdini begins the book by revealing how all animal species, humans included, have evolved stereotypical behavioral “shortcuts” to certain stimuli. We’ve done so because life is (increasingly) complex, and these standardized responses convey an evolutionary advantage.
At least they used to.
Cialdini refers to these fixed-action patterns as the click, whirr effect. When they’re triggered, it’s as if a button has been pressed in our brains (click!) that then causes us, robot-like, to perform a standard sequence of behaviors (whirrr!).
Click! Spot a potential predator? Whirr! Increase heart and breathing rates, dialate pupils, tense up muscles, secrete adrenaline, prepare to fight/flee.
That kind of pre-programmed automatic response served our hunter-gatherer ancestors well. Those with a strong click, whirr response to predators survived at a higher rate than those without.
But especially in today’s modern world, far from the African savannas early humans evolved upon, many of these fixed-action patterns don’t convey the same advantages. In fact, they can be exploited against us.
The Turkey And The Polecat
A good non-human example of this is a study conducted by animal behavioralist M.W. Fox in the 1970s.
Mother turkeys have a very strong click, whirr response to polecats. A polecat is a type of weasel, who loves eating turkey chicks. So when a mother turkey sees a polecat, even a stuffed one he
Article from LewRockwell