This entry was posted on Sunday, December 20th, 2009 at 6:53 AM and is filed under Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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Some experts believe that 99% of our behavior is simply the result of conditioned responses that we have little to no control over.
Personally, I’m not sure if I like the implications of this statement.
I mean, we all have a few knee jerk reactions here and there, but for the most part, we’re logical, rational creatures who put a lot of thought into our decisions and actions.
In fact, I’m actually a bit offended that some of these so-called “experts” liken the majority of the population to a bunch of mindless puppets, moved along by invisible strings.
Yet, as offensive as this assertion may be, sometimes I like to ask myself…
What if there’s some truth to it?
I actually wonder about it all the time. And when I find evidence that backs this up, I become really fascinated.
And then I get really freaked out.
Here’s an example:
In 2003, a researcher from Ohio University studied the effect of video camera angles in criminal confession situations and discovered something rather unusual.
The researcher asked 21 judges and 24 law-enforcement officials to view a videotaped mock confession. When the camera angle only showed the person confessing and not the cop/interrogator, the viewers who watched the footage said that the confession looked more voluntary (and more likely to be authentic) then when the camera angle showed both the interrogator AND the confessor in the same shot.
This has startling implications in a court of law, since, as the researcher put it, “In one instance, the simple change from an equal-focus confession to a suspect-focus confession doubled the ‘conviction’ rate.”
But that’s not the scary part…
Before continuing on with the experiment, the researcher then went on to explain to the viewers (again, who are all judges and law-enforcement officials) that since they would be unconsciously influenced by this simple change in camera angle, to be wary of automatically assuming a confession is voluntary and genuine just because the interrogator does not appear in the shot.
In other words, the viewers were now alerted to the camera angle trick and how it can affect their perceptions. Plus, they were even warned to watch out for it so they wouldn’t be lured into a false conclusion.
So… what do you think happened next?
I’m guessing you might assume the “conviction” rate went down at this point. But sadly, you’d be mistaken.
“The results were the same for confessions of manslaughter, rape, burglary, drug trafficking and shoplifting. They were the same even when volunteers were told to note the prejudicial effect of the camera angle.”
So being aware that someone may be using a psychological trick to influence our perceptions/behaviors may not enough for us to resist the influence.
Pretty. Friggin. Scary.
How many similar “tricks” are being used on us by the media, politicians, etc. to covertly influence our perceptions? And will uncovering them make them any less effective?
This should serve as a good reminder to go examine what we staunchly believe to be “fact” and re-evaluate things a bit. Just think… if we were wrong about the Tooth Fairy, we could be wrong about other things.
In true holiday spirit, however, I will go on record and say that I still believe in Santa Claus. (You hear that, Santa? I haven’t lost faith. Now can you bring me the damn drum set you’ve owed me since ’86?)
Anyways… how do you feel about this study and it’s deeper implications? As always, please leave your thoughts below.
And if you’d like to read more about how beliefs are created and how easily they can be broken down, make sure to grab your copy of “Push The Button” which you can get absolutely free when you sign up for my e-mail list (on the right hand side of the page).
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