Experts and Evidence Only Matter If They Support Our Social Group

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Some interesting research on how our minds process expert advice and evidence/facts/data.  All this useful for practitioners and helping clients make better decisions.  Excerpts from the research report:

Ordinary citizens react to scientific evidence in much the same way: People endorse whichever position reinforces their connection to others with whom they share important commitments.  

Our research suggests that this form of ‘protective cognition’ is a major cause of political conflict. 

Cultural cognition also causes people to interpret new evidence in a biased way that reinforces their predispositions.  

Of course, because most people aren’t in a position to evaluate technical data for themselves, they tend to follow the lead of credible experts. But cultural cognition operates here too: the experts whom laypersons see as credible, we have found, are ones whom they perceive to share their values.

People feel that it is safe to consider evidence with an open mind when they know that a knowledgeable member of their cultural community accepts it. 

The prevailing approach is still simply to flood the public with as much sound data as possible on the assumption that the truth is bound, eventually, to drown out its competitors. 

If, however, the truth carries implications that threaten people’s cultural values:

  • Then holding their heads underwater is likely to harden their resistance and increase their willingness to support alternative arguments, no matter how lacking in evidence
  • This reaction is substantially reinforced when, as often happens, the message is put across by public communicators who are unmistakably associated with particular cultural outlooks or styles
  • The more so if such advocates indulge in partisan rhetoric, ridiculing opponents as corrupt or devoid of reason. 

This approach encourages citizens to experience scientific debates as contests between warring cultural factions — and to pick sides accordingly. 

Humans are making decisions based on how we think the world works, if erroneous beliefs are held, it

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Social Media’s Ecology – "The Empowerment of Everyone"

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Excerpts from the article:

  • The advertising campaigns of the future will be increasingly waged in the jungles and dirt roads and nooks and crannies of the Internet – all of which may be more direct routes to our minds than looking at a television.
  •  Leaders arise without training, and survive or not based on their performance, not their credentials, in the new online world.
  • The long-term effect will be that governments, corporations, universities, elite media will find it increasingly difficult to dole information out on their own terms. Information will be out there for everyone, all the time, anywhere they and the information may happen to be.

This post was made possible thanks to a phenomenon I call “twitterdipity.”

Twitterdipity is the experience of wading in Twitter’s shallow, fast-moving data stream and suddenly – and surprisingly – mining treasure from a tweet.  It’s casually catching the eye of good fortune in a speed-of-light culture.  It’s when you score a free ticket to an exclusive event or click a game-changing link at just the right time.  

Content published from a world-wide, realtime community of incredibly diverse producers and consumers, who all have access to the same high-volume channels in which to influence others and attract the influential, seeds potential twitterdipity moments.  Add to this environment the natural affinity for the brain to treat online and offline social interactions exactly the same – creating the same feelings of empathy and rivalry and social pressure to maintain a community decorum – and you’ve got yourself conditions ripe for twitterdipity.

Q: What do you predict will be the long-term effect of the social web (which is becoming an “equalizer” of sorts) on the offline world in terms of access to information and influence?

Levinson: The long-term effect will be that governments, corporations, universities, elite media will find it increasingly difficult to dole information out on their own terms. Information will be out there for everyone, all the time, anywhere they and the information may happen to be.

Further:

  • All receivers and consumers of information will become producers – anyone can set up a Facebook page, upload a video to YouTube, Tweet 20 hours a day
  • This means that the difference between professionals and amateurs – between those whose profession it is to produce versus those who produce for love – is becoming less and less.

Anyone can write and edit on Wikipedia, and a survey in Nature Magazine a few years ago found no difference in error levels in the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.

We come from a world in which gatekeepers decided what the rest of us could see and hear in our media. With the advent of new new media, the gatekeepers are leaving their positions, and the playing field of significant public communication is open to everyone. This is a great step forward for freedom and democracy.

Q: What are your thoughts on the role of the relatively new career of  Online Community Manager, a position created to build and manage groups of digital personalities that are joined together under a common interest or goal?

Levinson: My opinion is the Internet is not about empowerment of new leaders, it is about the empowerment of everyone.  The idea of an Internet professional community leader is an oxymoron.  Leaders arise without training, and survive or not based on their performance, not their credentials, in the new online world.

Q: Thanks to innovative digital strategies from Wieden + Kennedy, one of the top brand agencies in the world, the brand Old Spice recently enjoyed a 107% increase in sales.  

The campaign’s raging success also created a new benchmark for large agencies who wish to convince their traditional media-minded clients that using inexpensive (even free!) social media tools in their ad campaigns can be very lucrative.

What do you see as the fall-out from this adoption of the social web by “big money” agencies for individual producers and consumers of online content, as well as the smaller Internet marketing firms who specialize in digital strategy?

Levinson: The age of Madison Avenue style advertising – what we see aborning on “Mad Men” – is coming to an end. Rather than advertise on traditional media such as television and billboards, campaigns of the future will be closer to what my namesake (but no relative) Jay Conrad Levinson calls “guerrilla marketing.” The advertising campaigns of the future will be increasingly waged in the jungles and dirt roads and nooks and crannies of the Internet – all of which may be more direct routes to our minds than looking at a television.

“The Empowerment of Everyone”

With instant access to everything all the time, our global village has little patience with high-gloss, slick campaigns where consumables are layered with glitz to hide mediocrity within.  In a village, everyone knows everyone else’s business – their strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and failures – which creates the “equalized” playing field that Levinson described as “a great step forward for freedom and democracy.”

As Levinson noted, “the Internet is not about empowerment of new leaders, it is about the empowerment of everyone.”