Nov 8, 2007

Repetitious Propaganda Works--So Question Everything, Permit Honest Debate

This is another writer's post from Clipmarks. So true and never more appropriate than now, since 9/11, and the "necessity" of "war on terrorism" and Homeland Security and the "threat of Islamo fascism". Are you being programmed or are you deliberative in what you hear and think before you believe something, basing things only upon credible evidence rather than mere allegation and repetition?

Politicians and other unscrupulous types have long exploited what psychological studies are now confirming: due to the neurophysiology of the learning process, simple repetitive association between two concepts is enough to make false propositions "feel" true and well-supported.

Worse, after enough exposure to such associations, subsequent denials can strengthen the perception of the falsehood instead of weakening it. (This is a major reason why the stigma of a false accusation can persist even after innocence is proven.)
Indeed, repetition seems to be a key culprit. Things that are repeated often become more accessible in memory, and one of the brain's subconscious rules of thumb is that easily recalled things are true.

Persistence of Myths Could Alter Public Policy Approach

Contrary to the conventional notion that people absorb information in a deliberate manner, the studies show that the brain uses subconscious "rules of thumb" that can bias it into thinking that false information is true. Clever manipulators can take advantage of this tendency.

The experiments do not show that denials are completely useless; if that were true, everyone would believe the myths. But the mind's bias does affect many people, especially those who want to believe the myth for their own reasons, or those who are only peripherally interested and are less likely to invest the time and effort needed to firmly grasp the facts.

The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.