What is your label doing for you?

Confirmation bias, straight ahead!

Saint Paul, MN

Be careful what you wish for…

the saying goes…

you just might get it.

Our brains have an excellent ability to find examples in the world to confirm our theories and prove that we’re right… even about our selves.

This is confirmation bias— the phenomenon that new information confirms what we already ‘know.’ Continue reading “What is your label doing for you?”

What is your Cash really worth? The Law of Diminishing Returns

We’ve all been asked to donate to our favorite causes.

School events, charities, public radio, and politicians have all asked for our cash. They each promise the biggest bang for our buck.

Politicians ask for small donations not because it makes a large difference, but because you'll remain consistant. Image "Bernie Sanders - Caricature" by DonkeyHotey, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Politicians ask for small donations not because it makes a large difference, but because you’ll remain consistent. Image “Bernie Sanders – Caricature” by DonkeyHotey, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

How about you, have you donated small amounts of cash to any politicians? Continue reading “What is your Cash really worth? The Law of Diminishing Returns”

The Echo Chamber of Social Media Divides Us

Social Media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are great tools for reaching a lot of people… right? Yes, but often new information only reaches those already in agreement.

Social Media sites like Facebook use complex computer software to filter and sort headlines and posts. Do you like the White Sox? You’ll get stories about the White Sox. This software ensures that most people get news that interests them — including headlines and ‘evidence’ that match their current preferences and worldviews. Facebook’s role is to engage you (and show you ads), not to challenge your belief structure.

When every headline you see supports your existing belief structure, of course the other side of a political argument is going to be ‘wrong’ — everyone is working from a different set of ‘facts!’

If you tried converting anyone to your preferred presidential candidate using Facebook, you probably made more enemies than converts.

There are two likely scenarios here.

If you tried to introduce new information to your discussion, it was probably overwhelmed by the existing information on the other side, and lead to cognitive dissonance. When someone confronts an uncomfortable idea, they’ll rationalize it away, ignore it, or refuse it. They want to remain internally consistent with their belief structure. People don’t like to disagree with their former selves.

If that new information did make it into your conversation, it possibly made things worse. Rather than an objective look at a situation when new information comes to light, people will often dig in deeper to their currently-held positions. They want to be seen as socially consistent. Being labeled a “flip-flopper” in light of new evidence is portrayed as a bad quality in presidential politics. People are publicly tied to their identity. They won’t easily give that up.

Social Media filters prevent people from seeing the same information you see. This has been the case for years now. Our nation is growing apart because of it.

Any attempt to sway others by highlighting news stories probably never made in front of their eyes. If it did, they dismissed it outright.

Anything that contradicted someone’s existing beliefs probably caused them to dig in deeper.

People don’t want to think.

How Social Consistency Helps Make the Sale


A friend recently told me that, despite having no ability to play the banjo, he recently outbid others at a silent auction. Once he expressed a minor interest in the instrument, he found it hard to walk away. Combine this with the scarcity of the item and the time crunch, and he found himself drawn into an impossible situation. He was asking if I had any tips to pass along. Nope! Do you have any banjo tips to share?

Last week I introduced Social Consistency. As you saw, people want to remain consistent to the public statements they’ve made. They don’t want to eat their words! Pointing out someone’s inconsistent statements will often force them to revert to those previous attitudes. People like to agree with their previous selves, don’t you think?

People also work to maintain consistent behavior, and use words that reflect those behaviors. No one wants to appear erratic. Erratic is synonymous with crazy, and crazy is dangerous. Continue reading “How Social Consistency Helps Make the Sale”

Persuasion wins the day in “Stranger Things”

Hello PRL!

Have you seen the Netflix series Stranger Things? It’s like a classic 1980s adventure movie, a mix of ET and Stand By Me, stretched out over eight episodes. If you’ve not seen it and you can handle a little PG-13 horror, check it out.

Warning: minor plot point ahead, here until the end of the short dialog below

People have a desire to remain consistent and look for patterns and consistency everywhere they look. Photo by allen, Untitled, Flickr CC-By-2.0
People have a desire to remain consistent and look for patterns and consistency everywhere they look. Photo by allen, Untitled, Flickr CC-By-2.0

In episode 7 of Stranger Things, the Goonies-like squad of middle-schoolers have a plan to rescue their friend. Continue reading “Persuasion wins the day in “Stranger Things””