Survey Shows How Easy it is to Get People to Reverse Their Moral Compass
A simple survey trick can cause people to unwittingly change their views 180 degrees, even causing them to fight on the side of their new viewpoint.
How does this under-the-radar trick work and is it possibly implemented on the people, but on a bigger scale?
Last week, PLoS ONE reported the results of the research led by Lars Hall; cognitive scientist at Sweden’s Lund University. A two-page survey with 12 definitive statements about moral issues – micro to macro – to which 160 participants had to decide which level they either agreed or disagreed.
What was the magic trick that slipped in the belief reversal? The survey statements they responded to were on what was only a square top-layer slip of paper. The back of the clipboard had a spot of glue to correlate with the slip. Since the survey was two pages, survey takers would flip the first page and the slip of their statements stuck to the back of the clipboard revealing the bottom layer. The “new” questions dealt with the same moral issues but some of the statements were completely opposite. Only two statements in each set were reworded and all the answers were left unchanged.
One example was:
‘Large-scale governmental surveillance of e-mail and Internet traffic ought to be forbidden as a means to combat international crime and terrorism’ – but forbidden was changed to permitted in the hidden questions.
The participants were asked to read three of them aloud (including the two swapped ones) and talk about their answers. Interestingly, nearly half did not detect the statement reversal and almost 70% of participants accepted at least one of the changed statements.
Here’s the startling part – over 50% adamantly argued for their new view! The researchers have proven this effect before (choice blindness) with aesthetic choice and senses like taste and smell.
Hall thought it wasn’t a way to fool people or unearth real feelings but showed how flexible people can be. But what if it really shows how easy it could be to manipulate cognitive behavior? Or, it could show an inefficiency of self-report questionnaires – maybe simple statements can’t convey people’s vast ideas and attitudes. And how extreme would the questions need to be to flag the attention of a would-be duped participant?
The scope of this article can’t cover all the forms of mass deception prevailing against our current culture: Bernays like propaganda, the dark side of marketing, slight-of-mouth, psy-ops, the power of suggestion – just to name a few forms. But a real chilling statement comes from a Boston College psychologist who found this “technique as a means of moral persuasion…’intriguing.'”
Liane Young says:
These findings suggest that if I’m fooled into thinking that I endorse a view, I’ll do the work myself to come up with my own reasons [for endorsing it].
That means these techniques could be (or already are) implemented en masse, maybe through public schools, the media, entertainment and more – and the people would do the real work in endorsing their new program!
Does that type of public mind control sound familiar? Orwell’s Ministry of Truth revising events within hours – we’re at war with Eurasia, no – Eastasia – no! Actually, in 1984, the swap occurs much like the technique above.
During “Hate Week,” an orator simply switches the enemy’s name from Eurasia to Eastasia mid-sentence and the people take on the new doublethink: “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.” Winston Smith’s “re-education” produces in him “false memories” which parallels the way he had to create false history for Minitrue and burn the truth down the memory hole.
The people could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. – George Orwell
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