7 Brain Traps That Allow the Media to Manipulate Our Opinions

Do you believe that television and other media regularly lie to us and manipulate our opinions? Maybe. But there is even worse news: our brain works together with them. It is so difficult for the brain to sort through the immense amount of information coming at it every day, that it is ready to just put up with the many misconceptions. And, as strange as it sounds, smart and well-educated people make even more cognitive mistakes that those who are less intelligent.

Sleeper effect

7 Brain Traps That Allow the Media to Manipulate Our Opinions

The effect: A persuasive message that is accompanied by a discounting cue seems more accurate over time.

Imagine that you hear a piece of information that seems true to you. For example, the production of a famous confectionery brand contains the chemicals that are dangerous to human health. But soon after this, you hear some information that makes you doubt that it was true. For example, someone tells you that the source of information was not reliable or that the news was fabricated by a competitor. As a reasonable person, you will most likely think that the original information was fake and you will try to forget it. But some time later, (the so-called sleeper time) you will go back to thinking that it was true. And you will never buy products from this brand again.

The sleeper effect appears only when these conditions are followed:

  • The information seems persuasive.
  • There is a following piece of information that makes you doubt the original.
  • There is enough time between the moment you receive the information and the moment you have to make a decision.


Framing effect

7 Brain Traps That Allow the Media to Manipulate Our Opinions

The effect: By changing the phrase, you can change its perception.

The way an idea is worded affects the way we perceive it. By highlighting the necessary part, you can make a person a hero or a villain. Compare: “3 out of 10 people remained hostages because of how terribly slow the police crew was” and “thanks to how well-thought-out their plan was, the police crew freed 7 out of 10 hostages.”

The thing is, we judge certain events of things not on their own, but based on their context. Usually this context (frame) determines the decision we will end up making.

And people are more likely to avoid losses than to try to win something. Also, with age, this effect becomes more powerful: elderly people pay more attention to the negative aspects of everything and are more likely to avoid their losses than to try and see the real advantages of an offer.

Here are some more examples of this effect:

  • People are more likely to react to the word “overpayment” than the word “discount.” 93% of people check in for a flight earlier when they know they have to pay more for checking in later. And only 67% check in earlier when there is a discount for early check-in. But the amount of money was the same.
  • You are more likely to buy 80%-lean beef that the same piece of meat that says it contains 20% fat.
  • In our everyday lives we also create our own reality, choosing words in order to describe a thing or an event. If you have an old wardrobe that you inherited from your grandmother, you can be a happy owner of a family relic or an owner of a piece of old junk. Mistakes at work can be a useful experience or trouble.
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