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How Politicians, Media & Advertising Influence our Minds

29 July 2009 One Comment
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Media Influence on Public PerceptionMedia doesn’t affect me that much

If you think media does not influence you all that much, you got another thing coming. There is a reason corporations spend billions of dollars on advertising. It works. It influences our behaviors, our values, and plays to our emotions. How many things have we bought that we thought would make us happy only to have the happiness wear off after a couple weeks? What made us think it would make us happy in the first place?

Psychology Studies of Human Behavior with Authority

Anyone familiar with the history of psychology will remember the Stanford Prison Experiment by Phil Zimbarbo. This study placed subjects as either a prison guard or a prisoner. The study was stopped only 6 days into the experiment because the guards were getting extremely abusive while the prisoners were experiencing real distress and trauma. Those in the role of the prison guards became lost in their given authority while the prisoners became increasingly submissive and started to follow orders without questions. What this study shows us is that the power of “authority” has a deep impact on our behavior and our ability to make wise choices.

Another principle in psychology is “social proof”. This is where individuals look for guidance in their decisions by looking at others, especially those who we see as an authority on the subject. There has been many studies were the most dominate personality would have the most impact simply because they seemed to have knowledge and authority whether they actually did or not.

Relying on Authority Figures for Blind Guidance

For these very reasons, both in politics and in general advertising, groups seek out leaders or celebrities who can speak with authority on their behalf. Sometimes very little fact or evidence is given, but the mere fact that someone with authority speaks has enough of an impact on the general public. I didn’t care about Global Warming until Al Gore said to care. I just assume Jordan shoes are better because they are Jordans. Masses feel reassured the economic bailout would help when our leaders endorse it wholeheartedly.

Speaking of our current economic crisis – let’s face it, most of us know very little about the inner workings of the economy and what has actually caused many of our current problems. We might have very strong opinions about it, but most of our opinions were influenced by what we have read from the media or something we heard from some financial analyst. We soak up and are persuaded by the blame thrown around in media. We know very little about how the economic bailouts would actually help, but our decision to support or go against it, is simply dependent on a few quotes from authority figures and politicians. The politicians tell the media to blame the CEOs and we say go after them! Even if the problem may have stemmed from the politicians themselves and their ineffective policies.

Be Aware of Media’s Influence on Public Perception

Our lack of knowledge and facts forces us to defer to authority figures and whatever we are fed by the media. Politicians and advertisers are experts in this game. Just look at the presidential elections, there is so much lying, truth twisting, feel good advertising, and baseless personal attacks just to influence public perception that groups are formed just dedicated to checking out the facts, yet even then the damage is done. Doesn’t matter if the attack was a lie, they’ve already painted the perception.

It is important that the public become more aware of how easily we are persuaded by what we hear in the media. Whether it be some politician waxing eloquence over some policy or bill we know very little about, or some value or lifestyle depicted as fun or normal through a TV show- it is imperative we are able to look at the facts objectively so we can make sound, wise choices. Remember that the media is manipulated all the time to gain favor of the public!

  • Do you agree or disagree that the public is heavily influenced by the media in their perception of just about everything?
  • Can you think of more examples where we give too much authority to what we simply hear from media or from perceived authority figures?

Related Post:
Perception of Financial Crisis – Who is to Blame?

One Comment »

  • James said:

    I can’t agree more with what you have laid out in this article.

    In fact, we humans have always been listening to false authorities commanded by our a lot of people around us.

    And the previous economy crisis has been planned like 150 years ago. It is forecasted by many economists to hit in 2008. And it did.

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