Twisting Minds: Psychological Manipulation In Sales and Politics

The Canadian site Rabble.ca has published an interesting article about psychological manipulation in sales and politics, and why people choose one political ideology over another, sometimes favoring more conservative parties, despite the liberal aspirations they express.

It calls attention to some important points, such as:

"Consumerism, driven by the most sophisticated and manipulative psychology the advertising industry can buy, has had the effect of atomizing us. We are defined more and more by what we have, less and less by our relationships to family, friends, colleagues and community."

We have two grave situations in our society. The first one is: slaves enslaving slaves. That is, retailers, marketing people, salespeople, and other professionals, obviously with exceptions, make use of strategies to manipulate people's behavior in order to retain customers and increase profit.

That includes targeting people's, and worst of all children's, deepest yearnings, fears and frustrations, exciting ambition and vanity, etc. The customers for their part, don't question such manipulations, and like sheep, let themselves be lead, spending their hard-earned money on trinkets and clothes they don't really need. The professionals mentioned above are no less prey to such influence, after all, there is always a bigger fish...

This situation takes to another one, which is maybe even uglier: people lose their identity, being regarded for the possessions they display, their appearance, and not what they are. Many of us usually express our personalities in our clothes, but there's a thin line between balance and excess there, and that's not something that can be taught, only we can establish limits by considering when buying becomes a compulsion.

More importantly, we must re-program ourselves in order to place less value on what people look like and more on what people do, say and think. Most people in the world don't look like Robert Pattinson or Sharon den Adel, so get over it! This attitude is only isolating us, and we're the worse for it.

This article on US News gives some tips on how to be a "self-aware shopper", while this other one reports on the dirty techniques retailers use for behavioral manipulation. So, next time you visit a shop, watch out!

"An institution or social practice is to be considered efficient or productive to the extent that it fosters ethically, spiritually, ecologically and psychologically sensitive and caring human beings who can maintain long-term, loving personal and social relationships.

"While this new definition of productivity does not reject the importance of material well-being, it subsumes that concern within an expanded view of ‘the good life’: one that insists on the primacy of spiritual harmony, loving relationships, mutual recognition and work that contributes to the common good.”

Material things are important, but only moral things give us backbone. What we have is a suicidal system. This state of things has taken us to despair and depression that has only increased after the economical crisis, to the high levels of violence and deliquency, to the apathy and isolation so many people live in, to the indifference in families, to the shallowness in education and at work, to the pollution and degradation of the environment, to the cynicism and hopelessness many believe in.

It is urgent to review all our present values, and that isn't something that our governments must do, but ourselves. We can only really affect our own minds. All institutions and social practices that don't add value to our lives should be ignored.

"It raises the question of why people get engaged. Why is it that tens of millions get into an emotional frenzy over the death of a pop star or identify their lives with a professional sports team but can’t be convinced to fight for social programs that would increase the quality of life of their communities? Why do further millions identify with right-wing evangelical religion rather than the call for secular social justice?

"According to Lerner, they are in a search for meaning and in the context of the destruction of community of the past 30 years, they find in sports and Michael Jackson’s fandom pseudo-communities they can identify with."

Does that happen because many doubt the relevance of social work? Just because there will still certainly be poor, homeless people, addicts and abandoned children for the foreseeable future, should we cross our arms and do nothing?

Our actions and that of hundreds or thousands won't change the world overnight, still, the positive actions of a single person make a significant difference in people's lives, even if for a single hour or day. It means one hour of hope, one day without hunger or cold, the display of generosity one needed in order to recover some courage to face his hardships.

We shouldn't expect return for what we do either. Instead of expecting instant gratification like children do, we should do what we think is best for its own sake. Return comes as a consequence.

“We find thousands of Americans -- from every walk of life, ethnic and religious background, political persuasion and lifestyle -- with lives of pain and self-blame, and turning to the political right because the right speaks about the collapse of families, the difficulty of teaching good values to children, the fear of crime and the absence of spirituality in their lives. The right seems to understand their hunger for community and connection.” [despite] "the destructive and often vicious politics of the Right... most people vote for the Christian right because they feel understood and cared for by it, not because of its policies."

Back to the psychological manipulation mentioned above, that is another example of it.

Unlike the first example, this is not a sensorial trick that results in a psychological response, this is a more straightforward approach: they are meddling directly with our emotions and yearnings.

We are responsible for what we pay attention to, and consequently, for the effects it has on us. So, instead of letting your mind be flooded with all sorts of cultural garbage, question every piece of information, strengthen your opinions and values.

There are those who claim that movies, games, songs, words can't influence people's minds, but there is daily evidence that they do. Otherwise companies wouldn't spend millions on TV ads or retail stores wouldn't hire marketing consultants for strategies on behavioral influence.

"It’s time for reconstruction. The economic and climate change crises can serve as an enforced breathing space: an obligatory opportunity to get off the consumer/wealth accumulation/hyper-individualism tread mill for long enough to realize it was taking us over a cliff."

That says it all. Let us hope that when the crisis subsides, we will have learned something from it.

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