Sunday, June 24, 2018

You're Pavlov's dog and you don't even know it.

If you’re a natural born US citizen I’m about to tell you how you’ve been manipulated and conditioned since birth. I’m talking about something that is so endemic to our lives, it lands somewhere along “Does a fish recognize water?” (Another version is “Does a fish know it’s wet?”) In other words, you’re conditioned to react to it, not think about it, not recognize how you’re being manipulated or that you even are being manipulated. 
It’s called Monroe’s Motivational Sequence. Once it’s pointed out to you, it’s really, really obvious. 
 If I was being snarky, I’d say it’s how to get people to shut down their brains. Which while that is the common result, that’s not the intent– well not entirely. The sad thing is the people who are most vulnerable to being manipulated this way are the ones who think they’re too smart and are making informed decisions and hold knowledgeable opinions. Monroe’s sequence is everywhere. It’s foundational to advertising, marketing, politics, social movements, etc., etc. In fact, it’s so interwoven into our lives that many times, to manipulate people with it, folks don’t even have to run through the whole process anymore. All they have to do is ring the bell and folks are drooling and prancing around. Woof woof. 
About the ‘since birth’ comment. Back in the 1930s a guy named Alan Monroe came up with a five stage process that pretty much ALL advertising follows. (Do the math, if you were born after the 1930s...) Even for people born before, that’s not just ‘adult,’ that’s almost all of their lives. Do I have your attention about how endemic this problem is? 
Good because that’s the first two steps.
1 - Get their attention "
2- State the problem
3 - Provide the solution
4- Imagine (with a variation)
5 - Call to action 
I’m going to use advertising because we’re all familiar with it. 
Step one- Attention. Ever notice that commercials are louder than the show you’re watching? That the colors are brighter? Yep. Get the people’s attention. Oh and that black screen pause? “Wait, what happened to the picture?” Yep. When you’re constantly bombarded with images and noise, a second of silence and black is another attention-getter. 
Step two - State the problem. OH MY GAWDS! My children’s clothes are not as bright and shiny as the neighbors! What shall I do? Where shall I go? What ever shall become of me ? < / end Southern Belle panic voice >
Step three - Provide the Solution. TIDE! Flickering montage of the problem being corrected (with significant product placement). 
Step four - Imagine. Your happy, shiny children out-shining the neighbor’s kids.
Step five- Call to action. Overt message: Another picture of the product. Subtle message (or not): GO BUY OUR PRODUCT! Seriously, how many times have you seen commercials ending with ‘act now?’ Depending on who they’re pitching, they’ll be overt or subtle about the call to action. 
Like I said, once this sequence is pointed out to you you know it well. 
That’s why I’m not really going to spend much more time on the details about it (besides you can look into it). What I am going to spend time on is how it affects us and how it’s used. Starting with this sequence taps deeply into how we are wired as humans. (If you know the term, our Monkey Brain.) We as humans are social primates. We are wired to operate in groups AND to be very concerned about our status in a group. Most of human existence was us operating in small groups and limited numbers. THOSE are the people we’re wired to be concerned about our status with. Advertising exploits this wiring and social conditioning makes us think in terms of large ‘imaginary’ groups. 
How large? Much, much larger than our wiring is for. For example your bright, shiny kids and their sparkly clothing isn’t just to display to your neighbors, but to ANYONE who sees your children. Now instead of impressing a small select group, you’re supposed to worry about getting the hairy eyeball from thousands because (gasp!) you don’t use the right detergent. 
Yes, I’m overstating it, but that’s to get the idea across. The general idea is our very wiring makes us susceptible to manipulation via this sequence. The specific example is our concern over maintaining our social status. When that’s the case, we move into heuristics, biases and – well not to put too fine of a point on it, but– shutting our brains off. (Which, if you’re human, that’s what we default to, until we take conscious control of it.)
The next thing I want to point out is how mixed and muddled steps two and three have become -- and how they effect our thinking.
I’ll start this part by pointing out how uncomfortable people become if you only lay out a problem, but don’t propose a solution. It’s almost like when you don’t 
ARRRRRGH! Finish the sentence! What’s wrong with you MacYoung? Finish the sentence! 
 Again it comes down to conditioning, but in this case take the next step. You’ve been conditioned to expect them to come bundled. What good is knowing a problem if you don’t have a solution? Stop and think about that for a second. Specifically ask, what little alarms does it set off? And why? It doesn’t take but a few seconds to find a simple sounding ‘why.’ Yet it really isn’t that simple. In fact, it gets real deep real quick. Part of the complexity is speed, part of what’s setting off alarm bells is tailoring the problem. 
When it comes to someone manipulating you, these two are seriously intertwined. The speed part is how fast we accept –or reject – solutions. (“Yes Tide.” “Screw Tide, I use Oxyclean.”) That’s not a snap decision, that’s a ‘my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with other information.’ While that’s an important topic, it’s a rabbit hole we won’t go down. But I will re-stress it’s well worth looking into – because of what happens when we don’t take the time to stop and actually think.
Tailoring the problem is the other part. How relevant is which car parts store you shop at to your children’s shiny clothes? Wait. What? What the hell do car parts have to do with my children not being laughed at for dirty clothes? Welcome to tailoring the problem. And yes, once again, I went to overstatement so you see the general idea. But this time so you can see the far more subtle and manipulative part. 
That is the people who want to sell you something will tailor the problem in such a way that the solution they provide is the only right answer. This even if they have to throw out huge amounts of evidence, complicating factors and – oh yeah – reality itself. They’re going to tell you theirs is the answer to a problem– even if they have to make the problem up! (“Ring around the collar.” The heartbreak of psoriasis.” “GMOs”) 
That’s a big part of rushing you from the problem to their solution. It’s really not in a salesman’s best interest to have you doing your own research – that’s why they so often provide it for you. I’m dating myself but “4 out of 5 doctors smoke Camels” and “4 out of five dentists prefer Trident.” 
Now, stop and think. How many studies, experts on the subject and statistics have you heard to frame a problem and as the basis of their solution? You can also throw in those ‘unquestionable facts’ being used as proof of why their solution must be implemented now. Scurry, scurry, hurry, hurry... no time to think.
The next stage is imagine. That’s also where I said there’s a variation. The imagine part isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Fuzzies are positive advertising. There’s very much an opposite imagine approach; an approach of “It’s the end of the world as we know it” and other dire consequences (especially if we don’t act now). Still another variations is why any other possible solution– by those other rat bastard over there– is wrong. That’s the sophisticated and intellectual version of ‘you have to think this way to be on the right side of history.’ Way too often – knowing that the sale has been blown– it’s time to attack. In fact, the rejection of your cherished solution and/or your version of the problem is the green light to attack those evil, wrong, hateful and oppressive rat bastards – or those whackjobs perverts who are undermining society, corrupting our youth and threatening America, mom, apple pie and God. (Yeah, newsflash folks, this is very human behavior and the more sanctimonious you feel, the further down this rabbit hole you’ve gone.) 
By now, Call to Action should be pretty obvious. 
 But what about perpetuation? That can replace not only call to action, but also allow us to short cut having to do the whole process over again. Ever looked at a billboard and only seen a smiling face with the product? If you’ve bought into that narrative, that’s all they need to do. With the bare minimum effort they remind you you’ve bought into their... errrr... they remind you of the rational and informed decision you’ve made about the subject. So remember, when the subject comes up again, you’ll know how to behave. (Ring, ring, woof, woof.) 
In closing, two things about this article. One: I’ve put this in terms of advertising with only hints about how far it goes into other fields. That’s to bring to your attention how you’re being manipulated. Manipulated not only by professionals, but also to point out how many amateurs who try to use this for their own agendas. It’s not only out there, it’s everywhere.
Two: In writing this, I deliberately used the first two stages of Monroe’s sequence.
1- By using terms like manipulated, Pavlov, don’t know it -- I got your attention.
2- Houston, we have a problem. 
Then I broke the pattern. First by telling you this isn’t the whole of the problem. And then I’m not giving you a ‘fixed solution’ because simply stated, there isn’t one. It’s more important to know and understand the subject exists (including how it’s being used on you) so you can come up with something that works for you. You working on shaking off it’s control over you isn’t something I can tell you quick and easy steps. I just introduced you to the idea, it’s a whole lot bigger and deeper than you realize. The implications –especially when it comes to people trying to make you emotional – are going to take some looking into.
So don’t get cranky because

No comments:

Post a Comment