Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When the Attribution Bias Makes Things Seem More Desirable

Just a reminder that the purpose of this discussion aims at stimulating thought and self awareness as tools to help those in recovery from trauma learn how to make safer choices. To make the discussion a bit lighter, we've defined Cognitive Biases as “CranioRectal Inversions” (CRI).

In the context of spiritual abuse and how biases effect us, I thought of other instances that strike me as similar to the Cheerleader Effect but involve more of what is actually a type of Attribution Bias. (There's more to come about that bias in posts to come.) There are several subtypes of this type, but I see the effects of what we see, believe is available, and find desirable as a consequence as similar to some of the factors that may be in play in the Cheerleader Bias. We also can tend to be more open to considering owning the same things that they do because the association connotes the idea that those things are somehow better than equally good alternatives.

Captive to Context

We draw conclusions from contextual clues, and quick, visual ones can be quite powerful. I chose some obvious examples of how our tendency to suspend our judgement based on assumptions we make about the social weight created by contrasts within groups. Pleasant scenes connote happiness. Those pictured with people, events, or props that society equates with success are assumed to also be successful. Without this human trait, Madison Avenue might well be known for producing widgets instead of advertising.

I first thought of a teacher in high school as he discussed alcoholism. When we see advertising for alcoholic beverages, we see images of success that are tailored to the demographic that likes a particular product. Sexy, demure women in black velvet dresses seated in limousines sell Johnny Walker Black. Scenes of costal Mexico and the Caribbean bid beach lovers to buy Corona. I remember considering the Miller High Life commercials that played on TV when the teacher brought this up. The actors seemed much like my father who only drank a single, ice cold bottle of Miller a few days of the month during July and August. I've never seen him sip Scotch.

We don't see ads with street people holding a bottles of whiskey or power drinks. There are no depressed souls drinking microbrew beer as they weep. Though we see “results not typical” in diet program advertisements in small print at the bottom of the screen, the image sells us the idea that the product is the perfect panacea. Apart from the desirable looking people in such ads can sometimes even convince us that we can't live without a particular product. (We didn't know that we wanted such a thing!)

Celebrities and Influence

I found this funny photo online which reminded me of this bias. The woman pictured with her children explained that her husband never showed up for their family portrait for their Christmas cards. At the studio, there happened to be a life-sized, cardboard cut out of Eddie Murphy. The woman thought that it would be a great gag, and she actually sent the photo out in cards without telling anyone ahead of time. Hey, if your husband doesn't show, who else would you like to have stand in? Apart from the silliness, Murphy's celebrity factor could make it seem that the woman and children are as successful and desirable than they really are.

I really enjoyed a hearty laugh to learn that someone had written an entire book about how certain trends embraced by Gwyneth Paltrow had gained popularity after she talked about them. Apparently, she's an advocate of the use of a cleansing juice diet, and she says that she steams her nether regions. She's famous and pretty and won an Oscar, so that makes her an aothrity on all matters of health? If it's in print, it must be true. Hollywood reporters just slurp up every bit of strange information that the woman produces.

Who in blue blazes would steam themselves? Why? It sounds more dangerous than beneficial? What are the true benefits? Where is the data? How did women surivive before they heard of Gwyneth Paltrow and her strange advice?

It reminds me of how I'd heard that Monica Lewinsky's shade of lipstick sold out within 24 hours of her TV interview with Barbara Walters in 1999.

 (To me, it seems like a reason NOT to wear that kind of lipstick.)

An upcoming post will feature more discussion of
the powerful affects of liking and social proof.

For Further Reading: