The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'manipulation'
A study in Singapore has shown that the sight or smell of appetising food can compel people to make impulse purchases, or else compromise their ability to judge risks and payoffs:
Similarly, another experiment used a cookie-scented candle to further gauge whether appetitive stimulus affects consumer behavior. Female study participants in a room with a hidden chocolate-chip cookie scented candle were much more likely to make an unplanned purchase of a new sweater -- even when told they were on a tight budget -- than those randomly assigned to a room with a hidden unscented candle (67 percent vs. 17 percent).The researchers make the further claim that "the presence of an attractive woman in the trading room might propel an investor to choose the investment option providing smaller but sooner rewards".
(via Boing Boing)
The Mind Hacks blog has a report of an interesting study on subliminal influence:
You go to the supermarket and stop by some shelves offering French and German wine. You buy a bottle of French wine. After going through the checkout you are asked what made you choose that bottle of wine. You say something like "It was the right price", or "I liked the label". Did you notice the French music playing as you took it off the shelf? You probably did. Did it affect your choice of wine? No, you say, it didn't.
That's funny because on the days we play French music nearly 80% of people buying wine from those shelves choose French wine, and on the days we play German music the opposite happensThe study in question used stereotypical examples of national music (French accordion music and German "oom-pah" band music), yielding the results mentioned, and is effective primarily due to its subtlety. It would not be enough to make someone not intending to buy wine buy some, but is enough to influence the choice of wine.
What would be the effect, I wonder, of having someone stand by the shelves saying to the customers as they passed "Why don't you buy a French wine today"? My hunch is that you'd make people think about their decision a lot more - just by trying to persuade them you'd turn the decision from a low involvement one into a high involvement one. People would start to discount your suggestion. But the suggestion made by the music doesn't trigger any kind of monitoring. Instead, the authors of this study believe, it triggers memories associated with the music - preferences and frames of reference. Simply put, hearing the French music activates  ideas of 'Frenchness' - maybe making customers remember how much they like French wine, or how much they enjoyed their last trip to France. For a decision which people aren't very involved with, with low costs either way (both the French and German wines are pretty similar, remember, except for their nationality) this is enough to swing the choice.
1. You've Been Psychologically Conditioned To Want a Diamond
3. Diamonds Have No Resale or Investment Value
4. Diamond Miners are Disproportionately Exposed to HIV/AIDS
7. Slave Laborers Cut and Polish Diamonds
9. Diamond Wars are Fought Using Child Warriors
The first-hand account from a waiter of how he seduced an entire table of women into ordering desserts, coming up against concerted resistance and coming out triumphant.
An ingenious con artist managed to persuade French banks to hand over €5m, by pretending to be a secret service agent fighting against terrorist money laundering:
Gilbert then demanded all the cash at the bank so he could mark the notes with microchips and keep track of the terrorist. A total of €358,000 was to be put in an briefcase and slipped under the door of a brasserie lavatory. The manager did as she was told. The money disappeared.
Gilbert's next fraud was even more audacious, police say. He acquired information about important financial transactions and telephoned France's biggest banks. Again posing as a DGSE agent, he said that some of the transactions were terrorist money-laundering operations and that the secret services needed to follow the money. But they could do so only if it were transferred to accounts abroad, he said.Meanwhile in Moldova, a conman is hypnotising bank clerks into handing over cash:
One victim told police that Kozak's technique was to start a friendly conversation, establish eye contact, and then put her in a hypnotic state. The teller then agreed to hand over all the cash in her till.
(via Schneier, Odd Spot)
An interview with James Freedman, an illusionist and white-hat pickpocket who was employed as a consultant for the film Oliver Twist:
Freedman gives me his jacket to put on. In the inside pockets are two wallets and two pens. Keeping eye contact, he asks what I have in my jeans pockets. I show him some keys and replace them. During those few seconds, he nicks the wallets and pens. As I'm reacting to this first loss, he manages to extract the keys out of my backpocket. I don't see a thing.
It's embarrassing. I knew what he was going to do and yet he still managed to fleece me. I don't even have the excuse of a natural distraction, which, Freedman says, is what pickpockets look out for. "At Westminster Tube station," he says, "the first thing people do when they come out is look at Big Ben." And, of course, thieves love the posters in the Tube that warn people to safeguard their belongings "because people show you where their things are when they pat them."
Forget spin doctors: the latest in public-opinion management is "strategic communications" firms, who will, for a fee, use psy-ops techniques to control public reaction to anything from disease outbreaks to coups:
A shadowy media firm steps in to help orchestrate a sophisticated campaign of mass deception. Rather than alert the public to the smallpox threat, the company sets up a high-tech "ops center" to convince the public that an accident at a chemical plant threatens London. As the fictitious toxic cloud approaches the city, TV news outlets are provided graphic visuals charting the path of the invisible toxins. Londoners stay indoors, glued to the telly, convinced that even a short walk into the streets could be fatal... While Londoners fret over fictitious toxins, the government works to contain the smallpox outbreak. The final result, according to SCL's calculations, is that only thousands perish, rather than the 10 million originally projected. Another success.
"If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that's going to save lives, that's fine," says Mark Broughton, SCL's public affairs director. "That's not a word I would use for that."The consultancy in question, Strategic Communications Laboratories, allegedly has expertise in areas including "psychological warfare", "public diplomacy" and "influence operations", including operations in a number of foreign countries (an example cited at their exhibit at the recent London arms fair involves benignly overthrowing an unstable Asian democracy to head off the threat of an insurgency, a scenario not unlike what happened in Nepal recently). It's hardly surprising that, in the post-9/11 age, they are gearing up to grab a slice of the lucrative homeland-security market.
Government deception may even be justified in some cases, according to Michael Schrage, a senior adviser to the security-studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If you tell the population that there's been a bio-warfare attack, hospital emergency rooms will be overwhelmed with people who sincerely believe they have all the symptoms and require immediate attention," Schrage says.
The problem, he adds, is that in a democracy, a large-scale ruse would work just once.
(via Mind Hacks)
Scientists in Zurich have found that dosing people with oxytocin (aka the "cuddle hormone", associated with makes them pathologically trusting:
"Of course, this finding could be misused," said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. "I don't think we currently have such abuses. However, in the future it could happen."
"I once likened trust to a love potion," Damasio writes in Nature. "Add trust to the mix, for without trust there is no love."
Dose a group of people with oxytocin and it's group hugs all round. The problem with that is that they become easy prey for anybody wishing to take advantage of them, such as con artists. If a delivery system (perhaps an aerosolised form of oxytocin, or one that can be dissolved in drinking water) could be developed, oxytocin could also be useful as a non-lethal mass-behaviour-control weapon. Imagine oxytocin bombs dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba or Venezuela; all the warring factions, insurgents and resisters put down their weapons and become one big happy family, with the added advantage that they're more than happy to sign over their sovereignty, oilfields, folk-song copyrights and traditional medicine patents, and give Starbucks a national coffee monopoly if merely asked.
(via bOING bOING)
The latest criminal fashion in Russia, a country with more than the usual share of clever people in need of money: street hypnotism, in which thieves adept in hypnotic techniques (said to range from ancient Gypsy mind tricks to cutting-edge neuro-linguistic programming techniques), manage to persuade victims to give up vast sums of money, and forget what happened: (via bOING bOING)
"The essence of the technique is, form replaces content. Our brain is built so it can process only so much information over a certain period of time. ... In cases where the flow of information is either too powerful and fast, or on the other hand, too slow ... the brain slows down, and the person's level of vigilance drops," he said.
An interesting article from 1982 about how the multinational diamond-trading monopoly De Beers manufactured the public desire for diamonds, singlehandedly creating the association between diamonds and romance, and manipulating human courtship rituals to move the right sizes of stones, and create an illusion of security which doesn't actually exist:
DeBeers devised the "eternity ring," made up of as many as twenty-five tiny Soviet diamonds, which could be sold to an entirely new market of older married women. The advertising campaign was based on the theme of recaptured love. Again, sentiments were born out of necessity: older American women received a ring of miniature diamonds because of the needs of a South African corporation to accommodate the Soviet Union.
The moment a significant portion of the public begins selling diamonds from this inventory, the price of diamonds cannot be sustained. For the diamond invention to survive, the public must be inhibited from ever parting with its diamonds. In developing a strategy for De Beers in 1953, N. W. Ayer said: "In our opinion old diamonds are in 'safe hands' only when widely dispersed and held by individuals as cherished possessions valued far above their market price." As far as De Beers and N. W. Ayer were concerned, "safe hands" belonged to those women psychologically conditioned never to sell their diamonds.
(via The Fix)
Our Furry Masters: A psychology researcher at Cornell University has found that domestic cats' meows have evolved to hook into human perception, and better communicate with (or manipulate) humans, over the millennia of domestication. Recordings of the calls of wild desert cats (believed to be closely related to domestic cats' wild ancestors) were found by test subjects to be harsher and less pleasant-sounding than those of domestic cats.
"I think cats have evolved to become better at managing and manipulating people."
From July 1, the Victorian government will require the state's proliferation of Kennett-era gambling venues to have clocks and natural light. Why? Because gambling venues traditionally eliminate any cues as to what time it is outside, even to the point of keeping the air temperature and humidity constant, so that gamblers become disoriented, losing sense of time and suspending their better judgment. (Tellingly, similar techniques are used by interrogators to weaken prisoners' resolve.)