People with good reasoning skills don’t fall for stupid things like spun arguments and advertising.
I always suspected that if we taught a basic reasoning class in public schools in which kids were taught about logic and critical thinking it might lead to a decrease in the efficacy of advertisement.
Reasoning abilities are influenced by intelligence and socioeconomic status, but they are also skills that can be learned and honed with practice, says a “decision scientist” at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Many people are affected by the way that information is framed, marketed or spun, as in advertisements, thereby exhibiting poor decision-making skills, says WÃ¤ndi Bruine de Bruin. But people with strong reasoning skills make the same choices no matter how information is presented to them.
For example, if a brand of beef is advertised as being 95 percent lean, a person should be equally likely to buy it as if it is advertised as being 5 percent fat, she said.
Her research, set to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shows a scientific link between people who are their own worst enemies and reasoning skills, although it is still unclear if the thinking problem causes the social incompetencies.
Bruine de Bruin’s study also looked at how different factors, such as intelligence and socioeconomic status, affect decision-making. She was surprised to find that, although these variables affect how well a person reasons, they don’t explain it entirely-reasoning appears to be a separate skill.
In other words, “smart people don’t automatically make good decisions,” said Eric Johnson, a professor at the Columbia Business School, who was not involved in the study.
If reasoning is a distinct skill, then a big question is whether it can be taught. Bruine de Bruin hopes to answer this question by teaching people better reasoning skills and following them over time to see how their lives change.
I can’t wait to see the outcome of the proposed trial, will it further substantiate the poor-reasoning = believing advertisement hypothesis? Also, I’d love to hear what the cognitive neuro people think of the study.
12 thoughts on “I was right!”
There’s the opportunity for a competition here, with prizes for people who find each card in the denialists’ pack, in posts denouncing this study.
Jackpot for the person who identifies (or constructs?) an argument that teaching children reasoning skills means the terrorists have won. Wooden spoon for showing that it’s what Hitler did.
You’re not restricting comments to the cognitive neuro people are you? Because I’m thinking if you were right, there may be a bunch of (right/wrong/confused) answers that non cognative neuro people stumble upon.
To believe advertisements is to go along for the ride. Sites like adbusters have been around for years, and one of their goals is that people should feel that they’re being played, because they are are being played, and every trick in the book is being used. Aggressively.
How does one combat believing advertisements? By being hyper-skeptical and living outside the self. And that type and level of constant disassociation creates it’s own social pathology.
Well, the more socially compliant keep out of jail. But is that the same as proper reasoning? Racking up credit card debt can also be reasonable; otherwise the financial industry with government approval wouldn’t have placed the default rate at 33%. Oh, wait, on second re-reading, I think they mean reasonable for the consumer vs. the CC issuer…
If you’re going to formally teach reasoning to the masses, then please don’t forget to teach it’s embarrassing half-brothers, experience and emotion.
You kind of lost me at the end there ted.
I’d say case-in-point that advertising relies on poor reasoning skills is enzyte. They actually manage to sell that crap with stupid innuendo. It’s apparently just a little bit of ginko, far less than many other preparations, and no one has shown it does anything for penis length, ever.
Now think of all the reasoning errors that have to go into believing enzyte will work. You have to believe
1. That remedies marketed as “natural” are worth a damn – which they almost never are.
2. That an herbal remedy from some dinky company has solved the age old problem that no one else has.
3. That a commercial that that can’t make an outright claim of effectiveness without breaking consumer protection laws (due to FTC/FDA rules)is selling a product that has the suggested effect.
Sorry, your wiener is the length it will always be – there is no magic cure. And if you believe the Enzyte commercials, you need that class in reasoning ability. Same goes for buyers of Axe body spray (which smells like old ladies to me), any perfume for men period, shoes that suggest you can dunk like Jordan if you buy them, soft drinks that suggest you are “extreme” if you drink them, etc. The fact that puffery works is embarrassing.
I’ll thank you to keep my wiener size out of it.
I’m sensitive enough without the gratuitous pointing. (You think that buying a vacuum pump is a private thing, when Google, like a cruel mistress, turns on you…)
At the end there, what I’m saying is that the decision making process involves a combination of logic (reason), emotional awareness and experience. When any of these three are missing or impaired, the individual is acting at a disadvantage. I realize that many people think that EQ is so much woo, but something tells me that when the cortex is detached from emotional centers, it leads to malfunctioning. Exercising and reviewing the emotional and experiential aspects of decision making is a discipline in itself. This is even passingly referenced in a link toward the bottom of your primary URL.
A lot of people do go on about the primacy of logic on blogs, while assigning negative connotations to consideration for emotions and experience (by devaluing experiential anecdotes).
As to Enzyte, experience tells me to be skeptical, and flagrant appeals to my emotional state leads to claxtons going off. And your assertion that perfume for men is a failure of reason? Do you distinguish between perfume and cologne, or are any body scents suspect in this puffery?
Incidentally, I just saw Enzyte Bob on TV a few days ago; I thought the government went after him last year. If we were to follow logic only, wouldn’t we assume that FTC (and/or FCC) would reign in Enzyte Bob if he was lying? If the government stands by inactive, it conveys the imprimatur of truth.
Somewhere I recall hearing that ginko was banned from research because it caused bone marrow and thus immune system damage. Maybe it was one of the other always-trendy herbs like echinacea or however you spell it. Was mentioned in context of African altie cures for AIDS. Anyone know more about that?
I thought some of the first Bob commercials where amusing, but it got old quick.
Not if you’re living in a democracy. One of the peculiarities of democracies are that in principle they prefer to let bad guys walk over locking good guys up.
IOW, failure of the government to shut the guy down only means that they couldn’t prove he was doing something illegal – but lying in advertising isn’t illegal, and even if his business model is unethical or outright illegal, the burden of proof is still on the government. And that’s how it should be.
Our democracy? What’s this I hear about Habeas Corpus?
Well actually, false advertising is illegal (see the first page of this document, look in the Cause of Action block).
I don’t know who’s contesting that the burden of proof isn’t on the government; my point is that the unreasoning public can be partially excused because the government is sending mixed signals. God forbid that the government should aggressively prosecute liars that violate FTCA — which they eventually did but to measured, weird results.
I’m not convinced that people fall for advertising because of poor reasoning – I think most advertising manages to bypass the reasoning process entirely. Firstly, by being so omnipresent as to be almost invisible – people just don’t think about it. And also by being so transparently nonsense, that even if you do try and think about it, you can’t get anywhere. It’s all about planting subconscious associations. Even if you know, rationally, that buying a certain product is not going to get you laid, the advertising which implies that can still succeed in forming an association between the product and sex.
I’m also unconviced that most purchasing decisions are made on even vaguely rational grounds.
It’s not entirely subliminal Dunc although the hammering of a message is clearly part of it. If you look at the example of Enzyte Bob, you have to at least have enough brainpower to get the innuendo, then think about your puny genitalia and whether or not you want to endure the embarrassment of buying the stuff at a store.
Also Ted, false advertisement is illegal, but puffery – the telling of obvious lies essentially – is OK. It is not legal in other countries, which kind of rocks for them.
I didn’t mean that is was subliminial – at least not in the sense that I understand the term. Take billboard advertising for example… It’s certainly not subliminal (as I unserstand it) but you typically don’t pay a great deal of attention to it. You probably passed many billboard ads on the way to work today – can you list them? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any effect. It’s similar to demonstrations of “mentalism” I’ve seen that use environmental cues to “plant” ideas or images without the “mark” realising. The cues aren’t subliminal per se, but they’re not conciously regarded as important enough to notice, and the “mark” has no idea of what prompted them to think of, for example, the number 4 when asked to think of a random number, despite having been exposed to many stimuli involving that number.
I want to hear more about your aversion to manly scents, because it really sounds that there’s at least some trauma going on there.
As an aficionado of camp, I recently noticed a good Old Spice series with Bruce Campbell giving philosophy advice on having it (keep your eye on the painting) and playing the piano while various scantily clad women slithering about him. Ultra Suave – but the Axe target market would never get the subtlety of it.
Bruce even lets us in on some of the behind the scenes, between the legs action.
No, I don’t think that Bruce engages in puffery. He dismisses with pretense; even the new Old Spice cannister is unabashedly phallic.
I was using subliminal loosely to describe the gradual impression advertisement has on people in terms of recognizing brands, and influencing behavior – like you say. I’m also irritated my name happens to synonymous with “sucker” in some contexts.
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