Boris Smus

interaction engineering

The Persuaders (audio)

Rationality used to pervade English scene. Now no appeal to reason is even attempted.

Mostly arguments today are adversarial. In the past it was possible to have people with differing opinions not to resort to personal attacks. Appeal to reason hasn't always been the MO. It comes and goes and the author claims that were in an especially reason free era.

How crazy PR is: Nice case study looking into the political journalistic and other heavy machinery that is used to sway people. Particularly at the first Iraq war (about Kuwait), and swaying public opinion to the side of the US. Especially fascinating is the "Naira" girl who cried wolf, who claimed to be a Kuwaiti refugee suffering in Iraqi camps, but was actually a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Especially interesting is the chain of money and influence and PR firms that takes that sort of inflammatory material and inject it into peoples' minds. Remember "Free Kuwait" t-shirts? Courtesy of Hill and Nolton, a PR firm which was fed this information.

Astroturfing - creating fake grassroots movements that are actually sponsored by some corporation

Logical follow up or supplement to The Century of the Self.

  • Lebeau: the crowd is lacking reason, influenced by emotion, images.
  • Trotters: herd instinct, and group identity is key.
  • Lippmann: anti democratic conclusion that experts should run the show, not unwashed masses. regain critical faculties by understanding how PR works. also regulatory moves to make public deception illegal.

Soft vs. hard nudging. fundamentally people don't always know what is best for them, and government can step in. seatbelt laws force you to wear seat belts always (hard paternalism). GPS navigation systems don't force you to take their route, cigarette packs with graphic images: soft paternalism.

Shoving will backfire: if people feel nudged, they nudge back. U.K. had a test which gave job seekers a strength profile that was bogus. OIRA branch of the US and sunstein. what does the most good and least harm? regulations like showing calorie counts in fast food, environmental friendliness of consumer products, hidden costs in air tickets and credit card fees. good defaults matter too.

Reason > nudging: reason based decisions will be more generally effective. rather than appealing to some auto response, if you can reach the underlying understanding, you're better off.

Some weaknesses: some parts, especially the ad related section, lists a lot of studies, but not the strengths of the effect. Also, largely a derivative work, mainly a summarization of other works: "Thinking Fast and Slow", "The Hidden Persuaders", "Orality and Literacy".

Strongest part: chapter 5 about politics, etc.

Efficacy of arguments: if dealing with people that agree already (eg. DNC to Democrats), provide a one-sided argument. Otherwise, go both ways. Discrediting the other POV is effective.